A Department of Defense report released last Thursday discussed China’s continuing efforts to modernize its military. It noted that China is preparing not just for contingencies in its traditional problem with Taiwan, but in the South and East China Sea, where it has territorial disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, and Japan. The report particularly noted the modernization of the Chinese Air Force, calling it “unprecedented in history” and also mentioned that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy conducted its largest naval exercise at the Philippine Sea. Chinese President Xi Jiping and Barrack Obama did affirm that their two countries should work together to expand cooperation and dialogue, but naturally such Chinese military modernization must provoke concern in the eyes of Washington. And if Washington is worried across the Pacific Ocean, surely nearby Asian countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, South Korea, and Japan are also starting to prepare for China’s military rise, correct?
No, not really.
Reuters and other new sites today are reporting that China and Russian company Gazprom are on the verge of finalizing a natural gas deal that would be signed tomorrow. This deal would see Russia export 38 billion cubic meters/year to China at a price of about $350-400 per 1000 cubic meters. That amount would be about a quarter of China’s current natural gas consumption. China’s demand for gas has grown exponentially over the years, increasing nine fold since the turn of the century. And while China’s domestic production is expected to make a leap over 2014 and 2015 from 200 million to 6.5 billion cubic meters as I observed in an earlier post, it is nowhere near enough to power its growing economy. Yet despite the fact that China will need gas more than ever in the future, China and Russia have chosen to sign an agreement now, and President Vladimir Putin will be flying to China to ensure the deal is done.
A link from NPR for those who haven’t heard much about it.
Last Saturday, at least 29 Chinese were killed in a knife attack at a railway station in southwestern China. Unfortunately, reporting of this incident has been mediocre at best in the United States. Generally, the perspective has been that it was the work of a few nuts, and every now and then, one sees on Twitter how this news shows the importance of having a society with guns, as somehow one man with a pistol could have stopped over ten men with knives. The point is not a debate on gun rights – rather, it is on the lack of discussion in the West about terrorism in China. For this attack was not just some lone nut, nor is it a demonstration one way or the other on gun rights. It was a terrorist attack by Islamic extremists, and yet unlike other terrorist attacks in other Western countries such as the Madrid and London bombings, there has been little reporting. And this has not been the only incident of Muslim terrorism in China – five months ago, a group of Muslim terrorists crashed a car into Tinanmen Square before setting it on fire, killing 2 people and injuring over 40.
Yesterday, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mr. Xiaoje Xu of the World Energy Division, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, hosted a presentation on the World Energy China Outlook, a Chinese perspective on global energy trends. There has been plenty written, both on the Internet and in other news, about how China and India’s inevitable rise will mean a growing demand for energy, as their people switch from bicycles to cars and the thick smog of coal dampens their cities. ( For a perspective of how bad Chinese air pollution is, Mr. Xu said during the talk that the latest reports have Beijing around 500 parts per million in their cities, in comparison to cities like New York and Washington which are around 5). Yet what do the Chinese think about how to meet this rising energy demand, combined with the stresses of handling the global call for decreased carbon emissions?