Wednesday, September 30, 2015

United States CIA's Operations in China Take a Step Back in Wake of OPM Breach

The CIA is pulling officers out of China as a direct result of the OPM breach.

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has pulled its officers from the U.S. embassy in Beijing. The move was undertaken by the agency a “precautionary measure,” the report notes, to avoid any possible retaliation against these officers in the wake of data acquired by Chinese hackers in a breach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The OPM breach, announced earlier this year, resulted in the theft of over 20 million records, including fingerprints and SF-86 security clearance forms. The source of the hack has been widely attributed to the Chinese government, though the United States has not officially said so.

The CIA’s move is necessary to protect officers who may be discovered by a simple cross-referencing of the State Department records obtained in the OPM breach against declared U.S. Embassy personnel records in Beijing. “Anybody not on that [State Department] list could be a CIA officer,” the Post report notes.

Over the summer, Michael Hayden, a former head of both the U.S. National Security Agency and CIA, noted that the data stolen in the OPM breach could be of immense counter-intelligence value to China. Hayden speculated that China could use the information to recruit spies. Hayden—and others—have described the OPM data as a “legitimate foreign intelligence target” for Chinese hackers to pursue, and clearly, the breach is proving to have deleterious consequences for U.S. human intelligence capabilities inside China.

The United States and China, at the conclusion of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s inaugural state visit, agreed to refrain from attacking each other’s critical infrastructure with cyber attacks and to not “conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property.” U.S. officials note that the OPM breach, as disastrous as it is for U.S. national security, was not a cyber attack per se. James Clapper, the U.S. director of national intelligence, described the OPM breach as a “form of theft or espionage.”

The U.S. and China have disagreed in the past on the acceptable limits on legitimate state-sponsored espionage. The United States, though it notes the legitimate value of espionage against state targets, has suggested that espionage against private entities and the theft of intellectual property in particular should be ”out of bounds.”

The United States most frequently accuses China of the latter—indeed, reports leading up to Xi’s visit that Washington would impose sanctions against Chinese individual and entities were primarily concerned with that sort of cyber espionage.

The OPM breach, however, is a reminder that China also practices good old fashioned cyber-enabled espionage against state targets. Clapper, during a testimony before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, highlighted the difficulties in retaliating against China for this sort of behavior: “We, too, practice cyberespionage and … we’re not bad at it,” he noted.

Clapper may be right that the United States isn’t bad at espionage, but it needs to get better at keeping its own information secure. China is getting better at the world’s second oldest profession at an alarming pace. By for The Diplomat

Commentary: Fear, Smear and the Paradox of Authoritarian Politics in Singapore

Few observers anticipated a 10 percent swing to the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) in Singapore’s general election this month – not even the PAP leadership and its “true believers.” The government received 70 percent of the vote, an improvement from 60 percent in the 2011 “breakthrough” election – its worst electoral performance. How did the PAP achieve this?

The PAP’s unbroken 56-year rule in Southeast Asia’s only Chinese-majority state has been underpinned by fear, insecurity and a subtle degree of ethno-nationalism. These features become more apparent when the 2015 and 2001 election results are closely examined.

The 2001 elections were purposefully held just after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The PAP garnered a whopping 75 percent of the vote.

Stacked in the government's favor

The 2015 election was held after a nine-day campaign, the legal minimum. The electoral process was far from democratic, with the PAP systematically stacking the institutional odds in its favor. The government’s machinations suggest that, typical of elected authoritarian regimes, it remains hyper-vigilant and insecure.

The vote was held shortly after extravagant National Day celebrations marking 50 years of independence, when nationalist fervor was high. Only months earlier, the nation’s “founder” and former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew died, garnering sympathy votes for the PAP.

The Elections Department, an arm of the Prime Minister’s Office, arbitrarily redrew the electoral boundaries. The department abolished “problematic” seats that the PAP nearly lost in 2011, created new ones, merged others and redrew seats.

These changes diminished the electoral clout of key voting groups, particularly the educated middle-class. In the last decade or so, they have tended to be critical of the PAP’s draconian actions against public intellectuals and supportive of opposition parties. Unlike the less well-off, middle-class Singaporeans are not strongly beholden to the government for subsidies and handouts.

A campaign of smear and fear

With the help of compliant media, a “smear and fear” campaign was unleashed against the Workers Party (WP) for supposed financial mismanagement of the Aljunied town council and the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) for its left-leaning policies.

Threatened by effective opposition campaigning strategies, the PAP unleashed its well-oiled propaganda machinery, particularly in the last five days of the campaign. The PAP had felt threatened by massive opposition rallies, an impressive line-up of opposition candidates and the WP’s call to send 20 opposition politicians to the 89-seat parliament – an increase from the previous seven. The WP argued that stronger opposition representation was needed to put pressure on the government to institute much-needed reforms.

The WP and SDP election manifestos offered comprehensive and coherent social and economic policies. These presented a sharp contrast to the PAP agenda, which retained unpopular policies in areas such as immigration, education and superannuation.

Circuitous debates between opposition and PAP politicians, via the mainstream media and nightly rallies, indicated that many of the PAP’s technocratic ministers were handicapped by wooden personae and elitist attitudes. Their politically savvy opposition counterparts would likely have outperformed them in direct debates.

Callous comments by one minister, Tan Chuan Jin, who said the aged poor who collect cardboard for cash were only doing it for exercise, shocked the public. For many, this confirmed suspicions that PAP leaders had become out of touch.

In lieu of rigorous debates and analyses in the media, the contest of metaphors, puns and double-speak between competing politicians provided some relief from the grim reality of an election fought on a less-than-level playing field. Having failed to restrict the focus to the PAP’s leadership renewal and narrow town council issues, rather than national policy, and with the opposition gaining momentum, the government mounted a scare campaign. PAP leaders repeatedly warned that as all seats were contested, there was no guarantee that the PAP would form the next government.

Voters were warned that even if the PAP was returned with a reduced majority, weak governance would ensue, jeopardizing Singapore’s economic success. At a rally in the city’s financial district, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke of the country facing oblivion (using the Chinese dialect word liow) if the opposition won government.

The SDP’s policies of raising taxes for top earners, imposing minimum wages and increasing social spending were lambasted for taking Singapore down the road of failed economies such as Greece. The SDP’s proposed cut in defense spending was denounced as reckless because it would subject Singapore to the vagaries of regional (non-Chinese) bullies.

Singaporeans were reminded of the debilitating political coups in Thailand, Malaysia’s slide towards political chaos, corruption and anti-Chinese ethno-nationalism, Islamist terrorist cells stalking the region and beyond, and China’s economic downturn.

The PAP also raised the specter of instability and turmoil in the West in the form of ethnic riots, moral decay and welfare-induced economic degeneration. In this threatening global environment, the inference was that only the PAP could safeguard the country’s security and stability.

Mainstream media faithfully echoed the PAP’s discourse of fear. The media failed to rigorously analyze the major parties' key policies. Comparing government and opposition policies would also have negated the PAP’s projection of itself as a national movement rather than just a political party.

A peculiar model of democracy

Former prime minister Goh Chok Tong brazenly opined that less debate and discussion on sensitive issues had contributed to the success of Singapore’s political system saying, "Ours is not the same system as in the West. It’s modified for our needs."

Singapore is certainly not a liberal democracy. It is not even a pluralist democracy akin to other industrialized nations in East Asia such as Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Indonesia. In my 2009 book, Singapore in the Malay World: Building and Breaching Regional Bridges, I explore the PAP’s cultivation of a Singaporean identity rooted in a culture of fear, paranoia, ethno-nationalist insecurity and an ambiguous Southeast Asian consciousness – mirroring that of Lee Kuan Yew.

Recent statements from the PAP leadership, the mainstream media and establishment academics suggest further political and electoral engineering may be underway. This is in line with the prime minister’s repeated assertions during the campaign that the PAP needed to “get the politics right.”

Having gained a solid mandate, the PAP is poised to get on with deepening the construction of a political model that purportedly works for Singapore. A long-serving regime and its formidable state apparatus, which presided over one of Asia’s most robust economies, has cultivated a citizenry that is prepared to press for substantive policy reform but remains fearful of regime change.

Authoritarian regimes and one-party states, heartened by the PAP’s landslide victory, will no doubt be closely observing how it’s done.

Lily Rahim is an associate professor of politics at University of Sydney.


Mystery of Indonesia’s coup continues

Winner takes all. Suharto (far right) at the national monument to the generals slain on 30 September, 1965

Truth, justice and the cause of mass killings still buried by Indonesia’s post-1965 story

It was a night depicted in the film The Year of Living Dangerously; a time when a reckless president ruled a country in economic freefall.

Truckloads of soldiers rumble through Jakarta’s dimly lit streets. They haul six army generals out of their homes, killing the three who put up a fight, executing the others back at a camp in a rubber plantation.

What happened afterwards is well known. The Indonesian Army blamed the incident on the Indonesian Communist Party, the PKI, and set off a purge that killed up to a million of its supporters.

A surviving army general, Suharto, seized power in what political scientist Harold Crouch called a “creeping coup”. Pushed aside, independence leader Sukarno died five years later in miserable house arrest.

Fifty years on, the identity and motives of those behind the “September 30 Movement” (G30S as it’s known in Indonesia) remain almost as unclear as they were in 1965. Conspiracy theories abound. Instead of a PKI “coup attempt”, was it a simple army mutiny? A CIA or MI6 false-flag operation? A set-up by operatives of winning general, Suharto?

Recent research, astonishingly in Beijing, is starting to shine some light into this dark corner of history. In 2008 the Chinese Foreign Ministry opened its diplomatic archives covering the years 1961 to 1965.

Before they suddenly closed in mid-2013, Taomo Zhou discovered a document that narrows down this historical detective story. On 5 August, 1965, the PKI general secretary, Dipa Nusantara Aidit, was in Beijing and led a small party delegation into a meeting with Chairman Mao Zedong and other top Chinese figures.

The day before, Sukarno had collapsed and was seen by a team of Chinese doctors sent from Beijing. They got him back on his feet and pronounced him in no imminent danger. But Sukarno’s mortality was at the front of everyone’s minds.

After hearing a report on Sukarno’s health, Mao got straight to the point. “I think the Indonesian right wing is determined to seize power. Are you determined too?” he asked Aidit.

“If Sukarno dies, it would be a question of who gains the upper hand,” Aidit replied, before discussing two scenarios: a direct attack on the PKI, or an army effort to continue Sukarno’s political balance of nationalist, communist and religious parties, which would be “difficult” for the PKI.

“In the first scenario, we plan to establish a military committee,” Aidit went on. “The majority of that committee would be left wing, but it should also include some middle elements. In this way, we would confuse our enemies… If we show our red flag right away, they will oppose us right away.”

This scenario matches the revolutionary committee declared that night by Lt-Col Untung, the naively patriotic commander of the presidential palace guard, to forestall what he said was a planned coup by a “Council of Generals” on 5 October. The annual National Armed Forces Day was already bringing large numbers of troops and armour into the capital for a big parade.

As John Roosa explored in his 2006 book Pretext for Mass Murder, Untung was in close collaboration with a PKI operative named Kamaruzaman or “Sjam” who had been working in army circles for years as a spy reporting to Aidit.

The Mao-Aidit transcript firms up Roosa’s scenario that Aidit and Sjam launched the G30S attack as a deniable pre-emptive operation to throw the army leadership off balance.

The rest of the PKI central committee was in the dark, let alone the millions of rank-and-file members. The Chinese weapons promised for a “fifth force” (outside the military and police) of workers and peasants had not arrived.

Possibly it was not intended to murder the generals but to bring them as abject traitors before Sukarno. But three were killed during arrest, and the defence minister, General AH Nasution, managed to escape. The decision to kill the others was a panicky improvisation.

The killings were all that the army needed to portray G30S as another example of PKI treachery. Indonesian Army propagandists, and later in 1965 an MI6 disinformation team based in Singapore, embellished them with lurid details. The US Embassy supplied the army with a list of thousands of PKI cadres for targeting.

Suharto, firmly in control of Jakarta, sent a column of special forces into the heartlands of PKI support. In its wake Muslim groups and other traditionalists were authorised to turn on PKI members, hauling them out for mass executions, night after night, choking rivers with bodies.

Even with the Chinese document, mysteries remain. Centrally, why did Aidit and Sjam act? Did they discover a genuine army plan about to be put into action? Or were they led to believe, falsely, that there was one, with Sjam either swallowing the bait or acting as a double agent for the army?

In either scenario, why were so many top generals caught so off-guard? Why was Suharto, in command of the army’s rapid reaction forces and the Konfrontasi campaign against Malaysia, left off the hit list? Why did Suharto react so calmly when another officer, Colonel Abdul Latief, warned him the night before something was afoot?  Why were the G30S leaders drawn from Suharto’s former command in Central Java?

Could it then have been an agent provocateur operation staged by Suharto’s own operatives? Suharto was anti-communist, but unlike the murdered generals had not studied at US military schools and was less at home in Jakarta’s cosmopolitan elite. The Opsus (Special Operations) unit attached to Suharto’s command had already opened clandestine links to the British, to assure them the army was making only token efforts against the new Malaysian federation.


It remains conjecture. Suharto’s close colleagues have stuck closely to the official line, even after the end of his rule in 1998 and death in 2008. It is still unknown if MI6 and the CIA were involved in setting up the G30S plot, or were privy to any knowledge of an Opsus/Army operation.

The Western powers were happy to keep alive the story that a “communist coup attempt” triggered the societal tensions that the PKI had previously stirred by promoting atheism and land redistribution, resulting in a frenzy of killing.

Time magazine hailed the PKI’s obliteration as the “best news” in Southeast Asia for a long time. Then Australian prime minister Harold Holt declared: “With 500,000 to 1 million communist sympathisers knocked off, I think it’s safe to say a reorientation has taken place.”

Joshua Oppenheimer’s recent documentaries The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence have reawakened consciences inside and outside Indonesia about the human cost of this change, though PKI survivor groups still face intimidation and denial.

Successive post-Suharto governments in Jakarta continue to resist the idea of an official inquiry. The archives that matter, in Washington and London, remain closed. Too much is invested in the post-1965 Indonesian story, it seems, for evidence to emerge that it might have started with a deception campaign that led to mass slaughter.

Hamish McDonald is author of two books on Indonesia and currently Journalist-in-Residence at the Australian National University’s College of Asia and the Pacific.

A longer version of this article was also published at Nikkei Asian Review.

Revealed: China Can't Build Lethal Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carriers

China may have started construction on its second aircraft carrier according to new satellite imagery. The images—which were obtained by the British defense trade journal IHS Jane’s from Airbus Defence and Space—shows that a new ship is under construction in the same dry dock that was used to refurbish the former Soviet carrier Varyag during its conversion into China’s Liaoning.

This would be China’s first indigenous flattop—if it were indeed a carrier.

The Jane’s analysis indicates that the ship might be between 558ft and 885ft long with a beam greater than 98ft. That’s a little small for a conventional aircraft carrier—and the Jane’s analysts note that they can’t conclusively say the new ship is a carrier. But that length—assuming the Jane’s analysts are correct—would be about the same as India’s Vikramaditya. The beam, however, is somewhat narrow—most carriers are much wider—which means this could be an amphibious assault ship or something else entirely.

It should be no surprise that Beijing might be building new carriers. Indeed, the Pentagon’s 2015 annual report to Congress on Chinese military power states: “China also continues to pursue an indigenous aircraft carrier program and could build multiple aircraft carriers over the next 15 years.” Indeed, Taiwanese and Hong Kong media have reported that China could launch its first indigenous carrier —the Type 001A—on Dec. 26 to mark the 122th anniversary of Mao Zedong’s birthday. Chinese papers have also previously reported that an indigenous carrier is being built in Dalian.

While China might be building a new flattop, the vessel is likely to be much smaller than the U.S. Navy’s 100,000-ton Nimitz or Ford-class nuclear-powered carriers. The Chinese vessels will probably be smaller, conventionally-powered either by steam or diesel propulsion and probably will not have electromagnetic catapults.

The reason is simple—China does not have the experience in designing and building large military vessels the size of a carrier or amphibious assault ship. It lacks the requisite expertise in designing and building the propulsion systems for such a vessel. Further, China is lagging behind on metallurgy for the vessel’s hull. As for catapults—it took the U.S. Navy years to perfect steam catapults and the jury is still out on Ford’s Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS). Stealing technology can get Chinese engineers only so far—practical experience makes a difference.

China simply does not currently have the technology to build nuclear-powered carriers. Right now, the Chinese are struggling to build modern nuclear reactors for their submarine fleet. Indeed, Chinese nuclear submarines are comparable to 1970s vintage Soviet designs. China is nowhere near ready to scale up those designs to be suitable for a carrier.

Truth be told, Beijing seems to be aware of its shortcomings. Beijing-based Chinese naval expert Li Jie acknowledged the problem to the South China Morning Post late last year. “Compared with submarines, a carrier is much bigger,” Li told the Chinese daily. “It will take time for our nuclear engineers to develop a safe and powerful engine capable of driving a huge platform of more than 100,000 tonnes.”

It is conceivable that China might attempt to follow in the footsteps of the recently retired USS Enterprise (CVN-65), which used eight submarine reactors. The United States didn’t have the technology to build reactors suitable for an aircraft carrier when Enterprise was built. Instead the Navy opted for eight smaller reactors, but at the cost of a lot of space. The later Nimitz-class has two large reactors instead.

Meanwhile, China is still well behind the United States and Russia in terms of metallurgy and propulsion technologies. Chinese shipyards have had past issues with poor metallurgy for their earlier naval vessels—but China will probably solve the problem eventually. The Indians, who traditionally imported high-strength steel from Russia, have developed their own indigenous alloys. The Chinese will, no doubt, accomplish that same goal in time.

In terms of propulsion, the Chinese are still well behind the curve but it is one area where they can probably leverage experience with commercial maritime propulsion technologies. But they probably do not have the wherewithal to build propulsion systems that can support a carrier the size of a Nimitz—a smaller ship is thus a more likely prospect. “But as Marine gas turbines, like diesel design, have not been a bright spot in Chinese industry,” as Gabe Collins and Lt Cmdr. Michael Grubb note in a Naval War College study. “Their development has been severely hindered by the slow place of indigenous jet engine development, which is symptomatic of larger issues within the Chinese aerospace industry as a whole.”

As for catapults—the U.S. Navy has had a hard enough time with the EMALS—it is highly dubious that China could master the technology this quickly even if it stole the entirety of Naval Air Systems Command’s data on the program. Stealing technology is easier than truly understanding it from the ground up. It is probably why China has trouble building hardware such as jet engines and gas turbines. Nonetheless, some Chinese officials assert their carrier will have an electromagnetic catapult. Steam catapults are a more likely prospect, but can still be tricky. The smart money is on a pure ski-jump design.


Collins and Grubb accurately sum up the Chinese carrier question in this statement: “The production of [ultralarge crude oil carriers] demonstrates the ability of Chinese shipyards to build hulls of aircraft-carrier size and strength, but their ability to integrate the complex matrix of aircraft, catapults, arresting gear, weapons systems, and large propulsion plants required for an operational aircraft carrier remains in doubt.”

Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain-The doctrines, motives, purposes, and capabilities of Chinese activities in cyberspace, internal and external.

The doctrines, motives, purposes, and capabilities of Chinese activities in cyberspace, internal and external.

The agreement between the United States and China to limit cyberespionage of intellectual property for commercial gain, announced on September 25, caps a tense debate over Chinese activities in cyberspace. Over the past several months, American officials had routinely called high-profile breaches of American digital networks, such as the hacking of the Office of Personnel Management, state-sanctioned espionage. This fed a belief, held by both American and Chinese officials, that China’s “cyberwarfare doctrine” is a way to balance America’s superior conventional capabilities.

Jon R Lindsay, Tai Ming Cheung, and Derek S Reveron have compiled a timely volume of academic papers detailing, in their words,

how China both generates and copes with Internet insecurity through close attention to its domestic institutions and processes.

This multifaceted book discusses the doctrines, motives, purposes, and capabilities of Chinese activities in cyberspace, internal and external. The chapters authored by Chinese writers, including one current member of the People’s Liberation Army, are especially illuminating. Particularly striking are their attempts to create new terms to describe this new sphere of geopolitical activity, and their overall optimism over the possibility of international management of cyberspace.

The inclusion of the Chinese authors is not just even-handed but necessary, for this is primarily a book about China. The American writers largely view the United States as a victim of Chinese cyberespionage, neglecting in large part the other prominent entity: the U.S. National Security Agency. American cyber-activity is discussed mostly in passing by the book’s American authors, though the Chinese authors as well as the editors ensure that the contradictions inherent in American protestations are mentioned.

The official position of the United States, according to Professor Fred Cate, one of the volume’s concluding authors, is that it

only conducts cyber operations against government for military and other commercial information, while the Chinese are hacking businesses for trade secrets and commercial information.

The strange corollary to this argument that commercial secrets are somehow more valuable than military information. It also creates a distinction between the private and public spheres that that is increasingly blurry given how often corporate success is seen as a part of national interest. Nor, finally, does this distinction have any basis in fact. Edward Snowden’s revelations have revealed that the NSA has targeted Huawei, Hong Kong-based universities, and foreign trade delegations.

This has made the American argument, continues Cate, “a tough sell.” He quotes a former Department of Defense official as saying

… the Huawei revelations are devastating rebuttals to hypocritical U.S. complaints about penetration of U.S. networks, and also make USG protestations about not stealing intellectual property to help U.S. firms’ competitiveness seem like the self-splitting hairsplitting that it is.

Philosophy aside, the practical difficulty in controlling cyberespionage, as shown by both American and Chinese activity, is that it very hard to sanction. Both traditional and cyberespionage break the target country’s laws, but only the former requires (in most cases) someone to be physically inside a country’s territory and thereby subject to apprehension. Even if law enforcement could identify precisely who instigated a hack, actual arrests are rarely possible. Thus, domestic sanctions are largely meaningless.

This is of course a function of the Internet itself, which allows action at distance, and is not a characteristic of cyberespionage per se. American websites pushing information through the Great Firewall may in practice be in violation of local Chinese censorship laws, yet China can do little but block access to those websites. This issue also occurs between allies: France’s data-privacy watchdog has told Google and other Internet firms that, in order to execute Europe’s “right to be forgotten,” they need to scrub offending links from all their websites, and not just their European versions. Of course, without erecting a China-style firewall, there is little France can practically do.

The editors’ conclude that

… the United States and China, or any other advanced industrial countries [sic] for that matter, will not be able to separate cybersecurity from their diplomatic relations.

Cyberespionage, furthermore

is simply too essential a tool for China’s economic development and political stability strategy and for the national security strategy of the United States

for either country to expect the other to limit its activity.

Cyberespionage and its variants therefore become an important avenue for inter-state competition, though its extent, threat and usefulness remain subject to actual international conditions.

The editors provide a useful two-by-two matrix in their final chapter that best illustrates the possible outcomes. One dimension asks whether the international environment is collaborative or combative; the second asks whether the threats posed by cyberspace are limited or severe. A collaborative environment is more able to manage the threats posed by cyberspace; severe threats would lead to the development of new norms and rules governing cyberspace. However, a competitive environment leads to different outcomes: mild threats leads to “contested cyberspace”, while severe threats leads to cyberwarfare.

The question thus becomes whether the international environment is collaborative or competitive, and whether threats are mild or severe. These determinations are clearly easier listed than evaluated, and they require a knowledge of local institutions in both the United States and China, the possibility of cooperation, and whether either side feels the other’s cyberactivities represent an “existential threat”.

There are a few hopeful indications that things may not be as bad as pessimists believe. First, despite the “cloak-and-daggers” vibe in many general discussions around cyberespionage, the researchers have drawn intelligent and well-thought out conclusions using publicly-available data: the chapter detailing the locations of China’s information-warfare groups and the state-owned companies they are attached to was compiled using publicly-accessible websites.

There is also room for cooperation between China and the United States, or at least an understanding of what is broadly unacceptable. Cate argues that a focus on China is ill-advised, as it

contributes to US policymakers losing sight of the broad range of cyberthreats and their many sources, which include, but certainly are not limited to, China.

If cybersecurity really presents such broad threats, it may be that Washington and Beijing can agree on some solutions. Both countries have promised not to target “critical infrastructure” (however that is defined) during peacetime, and have pledged to pursue cybercrime more vigilantly within their own territories. In addition, as China develops further, it may reach a point where allowing unchecked cyberespionage presents more costs than benefits, pushing Beijing to support more international management. It remains to be seen how these agreements develop, yet while it seems that the odds are that cybersecurity will become a significant source of tension between Beijing and Washington, the editors note (with some surprise) that Chinese authors are much more optimistic that cyberspace can be managed than are the American authors.

The editors’ framework is helpful for evaluating the probability of each outcome. If the international environment is cooperative, the results will be largely benign; if anything, more severe threats will make an international solution more likely. In contrast, a more competitive environment makes the danger posed by cyberspace becomes far more important, making the difference between a contested, but ultimately peaceful, cyberspace (akin, perhaps, to Cold War mistrust) and outright “cyberwarfare.”

Cyberspace is both new and complicated, even lacking in many instances the questions to be asked when analyzing the issue. China and Cybersecurity is a step towards providing them. Are threats perceived to be existential, or merely troublesome? How conducive are both countries to international management? Are countries able to close themselves off from the global Internet without suffering disproportionate consequences, as China has partially done? With these in mind, one can begin to evaluate whether these new activities is really as threatening as the pessimists believe, or whether it remains a significant, but not dangerous, nuisance.

China and Cybersecurity: Espionage, Strategy, and Politics in the Digital Domain, Jon R Lindsay, Tai Ming Cheung, Derek S Reveron (eds) (Oxford University Press, April 2015)

Nicholas Gordon is a researcher at the Global Institute For Tomorrow in Hong Kong. He has an MPhil from Oxford in International Relations and a BA from Harvard. His writing has also appeared in The South China Morning PostThe DiplomatChina Daily and Caixin. The views here are his own. A version of this review was originally published in the Asian Review of Books. It is republished with kind permission.


China's Role in the Syria Crisis, Revisited-A look at history proves China’s leading role in arming the Assad regime, thus contributing to today’s civil war.

A look at history proves China’s leading role in arming the Assad regime, thus contributing to today’s civil war.

Recently I objected to Chinese media making political currency out of the Syrian refugee crisis by castigating the U.S. for not doing more to help. Friends and readers have since taken umbrage with the suggestion that China is throwing stones from within a glass house, and to be fair, the fault is mine for presenting an argument that appears guilty of causal oversimplification.

I had noted China’s armoring of Syria with air defense systems via Iran, but apologists have parried that this association is tenuous at best. And though it strains credulity to imagine China is ignorant of Iranian dealings, an airtight argument for China’s culpability should demonstrate causal dependence—that is, had China not taken certain actions, present circumstances wouldn’t have been possible. So, because al-Assad’s attacks supervene on his possession of chemical and ballistic technologies, we must show that China directly provided these to Syria. Fortunately, the historical record is very clear on this.

In 1988, China sold M-9 missiles to Syria, despite U.S. opposition, although U.S. diplomats later persuaded Beijing to cancel the delivery. In 1991 Bush ended satellite technology sales to China because it was selling weapons to Syria, and until Beijing promised to stop, Secretary of State James A. Baker postponed his visit to Beijing. China made that promise, but was caught armoring Syria only a few months later.

To continue getting weapons in, despite promises not to sell missiles, China then began selling missile components to Syria. In 1996 it was again caught selling missile technology to Syria, and in 1999 it sent 10 tons of powdered aluminum to the Centre des Etudes de Recherche Scientifique (CERS) in Syria, which operates the nation’s missile program. This continued through the 2000s. For instance, in 2002 China proposed a Syrian Scud production center and from 2006 to 2010, China was one of Syria’s top five providers of conventional weaponry. And let’s not forget, this heavy weaponization of Syria took place during Syria’s 30-year military occupation of Lebanon and long after the glow of Hafez al-Assad’s promising leadership had gone dim and his tyrannical son, Bashar al-Assad, had taken power.

Finally, on February 2, 2011, 15 people held a candlelight vigil in Damascus and the government responded with brutal force, precipitating the February 3 “Day of Rage.” In 2012, former Chinese Representative to the U.N. Li Baodong commented, “[I]t is imperative to put an immediate end to all violence in Syria” — even as China continued to pump weapons into Syria.

And yet, Russia and China shot down the U.N. resolution to intervene after the massacre at Ghouta. When U.N. weapons inspectors put forward a report in September 2013 showing the use of sarin gas by al-Assad, Russia and China refused to believe it. And in April 2014 when Kafr Zita was hit with chlorine gas, evidence showed that the chlorine came from the state-owned company China North Industries (Norinco).

China later said it would investigate Norinco, and Norinco denied any involvement. But Norinco has since been found selling to South Sudan, despite the fact that the South Sudanese government has been known for “razing entire villages, burning people alive, and raping children.” And yes, in case you’re wondering, China had previously promised to stop selling weapons to this government too.

In other words, despite Syria’s military aggression toward Israel, Lebanon, and its own people, China worked hard to get as many weapons into Syria as Syria could afford, more or less ignoring U.S. protests. No one did more to help build Syria’s military than Russia, China, and Iran. And no one did more to try to keep weapons out of Syria than the United States. But now that the violence of the Syrian military has generated an international crisis, Chinese media want to pretend that their government played no role whatsoever in the unfurling of Syria’s fortunes and, moreover, that the U.S. is to blame.

Had China not armed Syria for decades, the Syrian government would not be capable of the current scale of violence. Had China taken measures to regulate companies like Norinco more carefully, the Syrian government would not have obtained chemical weapons so easily. But Beijing’s attitude has been, as one Chinese official commented, that “China’s business is its own business.”

And even if we pretend China hasn’t been arming Syria for decades, China would still have responsibilities in this crisis as a party to the U.N. refugee agreements, the 1951 Convention and the 1967 Protocol. My purpose, however, is not simply to blame China — there’s more than enough blame here to go around — but to point out that China is in no position to feign innocence while blaming the United States. By for The Diplomat

Indonesian Papua now on Pacific radar

The conflict between the government and indigenous Papuans, particularly those Papuans involved with the Free Papua Movement (OPM), has long been considered an Indonesian domestic affair. The government has rejected the involvement of any foreign parties in the settlement of issues faced in Papua.Respecting Indonesia’s sovereignty, no foreign country has raised the Papua issue at regional or international forums.

No country supports the OPM’s struggle for separating Papua from Indonesia.

Nevertheless, as Indonesia celebrates 70 years of independence and 52 years since Papua’s integration into the republic this year, there have been some new developments involving the Papua issue in the Pacific region.

The new developments began with the formation of the United Liberation Movement for West Papua (ULMWP) in December 2014. Three organizations under the umbrella of the OPM gathered in Port Villa. With the help of Vanuatu, they established the ULMWP to coordinate activities and represent the resistance movement in collaboration with external parties. Since then the OPM has appeared as a more united force with a united voice.

Representing the various Papuan resistance groups, the ULMWP officially applied for full membership at the Melanesian Spearhead Group (MSG), a sub-regional grouping in the Pacific, in February 2015. The MSG comprises Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji and New Caledonia. The application was supported by representatives from all countries in Melanesia. They have called the people of Papua their “Melanesian brothers and sisters of West Papua” and have declared the Papua issue a Melanesian issue.

Instead of granting the ULMWP full membership, the Melanesian leaders at the 20th MSG summit held in June 2015 in the Solomon Islands decided to offer the group observer status. It was the first political recognition of the OPM. As an observer, the ULMWP began introducing the Papua issue to all the countries of the Pacific. Within two months, the issue was drawing wider attention — and the OPM was stronger support from Pacific countries.

Such was the support from around the Pacific region, in August 2015 it was decided that the Papua issue would be one of five main agenda items at the 46th summit of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) in PNG in mid-September.

On Sept. 1 and 2, the Pacific Islands Association of Non-Government Organizations gathered in Port Moresby for a civil society partnership forum. The organizations offered a collective public apology to Papuans for their past ignorance and neglect of their suffering.

They jointly called for Pacific leaders “to send a high-level PIF delegation, including civil society organizations [CSOs] and church leaders, on a fact-finding mission to West Papua” and urged for “the re-inscription of West Papua on the UN [Non-Self-Governing Territories] list as an important step toward an independent and free West Papua”.

The leaders of 16 Pacific countries gathered in Port Moresby for the 46th PIF summit, from Sept. 7 to 11. They communicated their collective position on Papua in the PIF’s communiqué, explicitly expressing respect for and recognition of Indonesia’s sovereignty over Papua, while raising their concern regarding human rights violations in the province.

The Pacific leaders requested that the Prime Minister of PNG consult with the Indonesian government on the establishment of a fact-finding mission to Papua. The mission is meant to assess the human rights situation in Papua and West Papua provinces. Consequently, the Papua issue is now a Pacific issue. Its settlement will and should involve Indonesia, all Pacific countries and the Papuans. Pacific CSOs and leaders of Pacific countries will now be following the situation closely, particularly possible human rights violations in the western half of New Guinea.

Pacific leaders may now raise the Papua issue at sub-regional, regional and even international forums, as 52 years on from West Papua’s integration into Indonesia, and after the resulting deaths of thousands of Papuans, the case remains unsettled.

It is necessary for the government to prevent Papua from becoming an international issue. It cannot and will not be settled by deploying more troops to Papua and West Papua and establishing more military commands there. For five decades now the security approach has failed. The government is strongly urged to explore peaceful means to address the situation.

Given these new developments, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo should appoint a high-level government official, such as a minister, to be in charge of the case. That person could be assisted by a small team of non-Papuans who are fully trusted and respected by Papuans, who could maintain close communications with all parties concerned.Such communication is badly needed to prepare the way for peace talks between representatives of the government and the Papuan resistance groups represented by the ULMWP. This could help to settle the Papua issue through peaceful means

The writer Neles Tebay, Jayapura, Papua is a lecturer at the Fajar Timur School of Philosophy and the Coordinator of the Papua Peace Network in Abepura. In 2013 he was awarded the Tji Hak-son Justice and Peace Award in Seoul -

Indonesia’s forgotten genocide-Fear of the future explains failure to grapple with the past

                                        A monument to the generals slain in the coup

Fear of the future explains failure to grapple with the past

With each passing year, the memories of violent death dim the way that old photographs lose their colour.

It’s now been 50 long years since that night in Jakarta on 30 September when seven Indonesian army officers including six generals were slaughtered by rebel troops, unleashing an orgy of violence across much of Java and Bali where it still remains unclear if more or less than a million people died.

The victims were for the most part ordinary Indonesians from towns and villages across Java and Bali, killed cruelly and without mercy, usually cudgeled or strangled in the middle of the night, on the merest hint of communist sympathy.

Most would have joined some communist party organised activities – with a membership of at least three million, it was one of the largest political parties in the country and had the tacit backing of President Sukarno, the nation’s founder. Many of the victims were educated, as it was believed that intellectuals were prone to communism sympathies. You faced death merely if you wore spectacles.

For three long decades, the victims suffered in silence.  Every year to mark the attempted coup on 30 September, President Soeharto’s New Order government showed a dramatic reconstruction of the events on that fateful night which portrayed the murdered generals as heroes, and the communist plotters as brutal killers, staying silent on the mass killings that followed.

There was hope for a reckoning of the past after 1998, when Indonesia threw off the authoritarian yoke and finally embraced the democratic system envisaged by the country’s founding fathers.

But liberal democracy has proven a weak tool for either justice or reconciliation in Indonesia. The media’s ability to chronicle Indonesia’s tragic past has not resulted in a collective commitment to establishing the truth or holding those responsible accountable.

Instead, the victims have been tortured further – promised some form of recognition in the form of a national apology, only to be told that the killings were justified by an aggressive conservative establishment that continues to stand by its anti-communist beliefs three decades after communism collapsed.

When he was President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono endorsed a National Human Rights Commission report into the killings.  The voluminous report recommended action to provide redress to the victims.  Yudhoyono contemplated a national apology, but met with fierce resistance from within the ranks of the military and the Islamic establishment, whose members carried out many of the killings.

Perhaps this was a vain hope; Yudhoyono’s own father in law, Sarwo Edhie, was the Special Forces General ordered to initiate the crackdown on communists and their sympathisers. To make matters worse, before the end of his Presidential term, Yudhoyono mulled a proposal to make Sarwo Edhie a national hero.

There was renewed hope that Indonesian President Joko Widodo, popularly elected last year and with no links to the old conservative establishment, would finally address the issue.  Contemplating an apology for human rights abuses was one of the many vague promises he made as he rode to power. But as the 50th anniversary approaches, his officials say the President has more pressing issues of social and economic development to attend to.

The army remains a strong pillar of the establishment and seems unwilling to make amends for its bloody past.  Indeed, there is still anger in military circles about the alleged communist involvement in the deaths of the generals. “We are victims too,” one former military officer once told me.

Neither do the Islamic organisations implicated in carrying out the killings want their role highlighted by any move to apologise for the past. News of Joko Widodo’s decision not to issue an apology this year came after a meeting with Muhammadiya, the country’s second largest Muslim organisation.

Behind the excuses, the disappointment and the failure to address what the rest of the world considers a forgotten genocide, lies a profound fear of the future. “What did the Communists want?” asked a conservative figure at one meeting to discuss reconciliation during Yudhoyono’s administration. “They wanted land reform.”  Then he asked: “Do we have land reform today?”

Fear of social change in a society still plagued by inequality perhaps explains why anti-communists protests still happen each time political leaders contemplate addressing the mass killings. The poverty rate may have halved in the last 15 years, but income distribution has become much more unequal; about 40 per cent of the country’s 250 million people still live on less than $2 per day

Threats to social cohesion could also be a factor preventing accountability. Javanese society in 1965 was composed of a more balanced mixture of Christian and Muslim communities; the communist party made gains in the Christian community, and anti-communist sentiment found root among Muslims.

It is no secret that much of the actual killing was carried out by Muslim youth gangs and militia, encouraged and armed by the army. Afterwards many Christians converted to Islam to escape suspicion and further harassment.  The legacy of accelerated Islamicisation since then has weakened the traditional cultural mechanisms for maintaining harmony between faiths, and religious conflict is on the rise.

Opening up these old wounds, many Indonesians argue, will only highlight modern inequalities and reinforce social divisions that already frequently result in conflict.  So why rock the boat?

The old photographs may fade and the images of death and immense suffering on such a massive scale all but physically disappear, but the collective social trauma lives on in the Indonesian psyche. It appears in the creative works of writers like Leila Chudori and Laksmi Pamuntjak who were born just before or after the killings.  It has been vividly expressed by some of the actors themselves – both killers and their victims – in the films of Joshua Oppenheimer.

What photographs hide is how people feel; deep down many Indonesians feel ashamed about a period in their history they can’t erase. This dark spot on the past clouds their vision of the future.

Michael Vatikiotis is a writer and peace mediator whose novel ‘The Painter of Lost Souls’ dwells on the challenges of remembering Indonesia’s violent past.