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Southeast Asia is of growing importance to the United States. Unlike a number of countries in East Asia, those of Southeast Asia have healthy demographic profiles and the potential for robust economic growth. And as China seeks to expand its diplomatic influence and military power throughout the Asia-pacific, this sub-region is increasingly becoming a center of geopolitical competition.
China reported its first-half GDP Tuesday night. Several media outlets said China did surprisingly well in meeting a target of 7% growth. No disrespect to the Wall Street Journal, et al but how can it be surprising when the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) affirms the Communist Party is right again? A jobless rate the government admits is wrong, non-performing loans that never rise while debt soars, numbers that appear (income inequality) and disappear (coal production) depending on politics – Chinese economic data cannot be trusted. The issue is what, if anything, can be learned anyway.
Leading up to last night’s conclusion of the Iran nuclear deal, even the Obama administration was worried that an agreement could lead to a “$100 billion financial windfall” for Tehran. Concerns over that windfall have understandably focused on Iran’s use of those funds to finance terrorism in the Middle East. Iranian cash, however, could have destabilizing effects much further afield.
Abe likely faces renewed opposition at home. After all, if America’s lawmakers think it is a bad deal, then Japan’s entrenched interests will be able to use the House’s de facto rejection of the pact as proof that everyone loses from TPP. The TAA defeat also rescues wavering members of Abe’s own party from having to take a principled stand on TPP, if it came to a vote. To use a DC colloquialism, they now have top cover from America’s Democrats.
After years of being a focus of interest for specialists, the South China Sea is now getting major attention from the media. The latest is a CNN report that a U.S. Navy P-8 surveillance plane was warned away from some of China’s manmade islands in the Spratly Island chain by the Chinese Navy. Beijing has not yet declared a formal air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the South China Sea, unlike the one it established over part of the East China Sea in 2013, nor could it today enforce such a zone effectively with its current fighters. However, with its reclamation activities continuing, and the Obama Administration apparently having decided to challenge China’s claims, the US and China are now potentially closer to an armed encounter than at any time in the past 20 years. Here are three ways the US and China could go to war.