3D chess: China, India, US

Thursday 9 December, 2010

I checked out this event CHINA, INDIA, AND THE UNITED STATES: THREE-DIMENSIONAL CHESS IN THE 21ST CENTURY hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs featuring Robert Kaplan of the Atlantic.  Here’s what he posited:

The Indian & western Pacific oceans are becoming the nexus of the world.  90% of goods travel by sea through them.  Eurasia is a group of interlocking parts:  India & China are investing in Iran for their oil.  But there are risks because predictable monsoons are required for agriculture, but dangerous over the Indonesian straits.  Sailing distances became calculable.  They are constructing a trading network without Americans, where China is the 1st among many equals.  The US Navy has plateaued @ 286 ships, but China will have more submarines in the water than the US will, so the US presence is becoming less dominant.  India & China are separated by the Himilayas & slowing becoming rivals with overlapping spheres of influence.  China is building ports in Pakistan, Burma, & Bangladesh, effectively surrounding India, but naval bases in those places would be too provocative.  Both countries are keen to manage the region.  China gets its energy from the Middle East & wants to build a pipeline that winds north of Pakistan.  India has new reverence for Viceroy Kerzon, who supported the power of shadow zones of influence.  They compete most in Burma, which is a hub of natural resources that China wants to acquire.  Unlike the US which promotes the ideology of democratic capitalism & the former USSR which promoted communism, China expands by promoting no ideology.  As global demand for energy grows by 50%, 1/2 of that will go to China & India.  While European defense budgets decline, those in the Asia/Pacific & Japan rise, & China’s to the point where they have the world’s 2nd largest navy.  Historically Asia fielded unsophisticated land armies focused inward, they are now oriented more outwards.  The military is a product of liberal economics & follows commerce.  There are 4 key areas of contention in central Asia:

  1. Afghanistan, which will build pipelines if stability holds
  2. Sri Lanka, where after we pulled out after their most recent war, China moved in to fill the vacuum
  3. South China Sea, China’s Caribbean, which they seek to control the international waterway, as the US is allying with VietNam
  4. Taiwan, which has 270 flights to China, but is also the target of 1300 short range ballistic missiles, which are peacefully intimidating.  As China moves outwards to dominate island chains, the US will not be able to defend them by 2020.

We are seeing the beginning of a multipolar military world.


  • the US is in a conundrum:  it can no longer be the world’s policeman, but can’t abandon this role either
  • Japan rising is good for the US, stability in Pakistan & Afghanistan is better for China
  • Neither is inherently threatening/there is no competing ideology:  we need to reach out to China & build a web of ties as we lessen dependence on each country
  • bilateral relations are deep & rich:  no 1 will use the term “contain” & reach out to them @ the same time
  • India is democratic & things get done despite government/China is not monolithic, but gets things done, in some ways because of government, so they’re not real rivals yet
  • Obama’s support for adding India to the UN Security Council is a good thing
  • 1 problem is focus on Iraq, Afghanistan, & Pakistaon leaves no focus anywhere else
  • Obama’s special envoys are more effective than the Pentagon & State Dept, which consider these things all the time
  • a formerly pro-Western Thailand is now divided & weaker, which makes it easier for China
  • India is not as dynamic as China, but more stable:  China could have upheavals & will have to move away from a 1 party system
  • we need to hold Pakistan together
  • Russia just opened a pipeline to China, but is afraid & distrustful that they’re outnumbered
  • we must support free trade to extract minerals from Afghanistan
  • China is unresponsive to US Defense/military outreach
  • Iran is containable-we need to be patient & facilitate regime shift
  • unlike Europe, in this area, a multipolar world is more unstable than a unipolar world

Pardon me if this is all over the map, but that’s the speaker & not me, the reporter here.


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