China’s president re-elected with no clear successor in sight

Xi Jinping’s re-election to a second five-year term as China’s president, without a clear successor, cements his grip on the Asian nation and raises questions about the future of economic, political, and social reforms in the country, according to Atlantic Council analysts.  

Xi was re-elected at the end of the National Congress of the Communist Party of China in Beijing on October 25. His re-election coincided with the unveiling of a new Politburo Standing Committee, the six men who will join Xi in governing China for the next five years. None of the individuals could be considered political rivals to Xi, or potential successors.

His re-election with no successor in sight allows Xi to posit himself as “the undisputed leader of China well beyond his second five-year term,” according to Jamie Metzl, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
In order to effectively address the growing tensions posed by North Korean nuclear capabilities, Washington needs a comprehensive strategy that will include a range of efforts, including, importantly, strengthened homeland missile defenses.

Last week, US President Donald J. Trump, referring to the North Korean missile threat, claimed that “we have missiles that can knock out a missile in the air 97 percent of the time, and if you send two of them, it’s going to get knocked out.” This comment led to a flurry of criticism of the president’s statement and of US missile defense policy in general. However, the critics, who point to technical problems and high costs and oppose improved missile defenses, miss the mark. The president’s statement is technically accurate and homeland missile defense is essential to US defense strategy toward North Korea.
The United States should update, revitalize, and defend the rules-based international order while considering “hard-headed” engagement with China, according to the latest in a series of Atlantic Council strategy papers.

This “is not a strategy designed in Washington to be imposed on the region,” said Matthew Kroenig, a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

Kroenig, along with Miyeon Oh, a senior fellow in the Scowcroft Center, is the author of A Strategy of the Trans-Pacific Century: Final Report of the Atlantic Council’s Asia-Pacific Strategy Task Force.
The United States must seize the opportunity presented by a Chinese initiative that envisions the creation of land and sea routes that will span three continents and link more than sixty countries, according to experts who participated in a panel discussion at the Atlantic Council on October 4.

Making the case for engagement with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Gal Luft, co-director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, said: “[The BRI] is a generational project and it will take a long time,” but, “the US needs to engage now.”

“We don’t have to agree to every component of the Belt and Road… we don’t have to buy into the whole package,” he added.
Exemplified by his extraordinary phone conversation with the leader of Taiwan and his tweets criticizing China, US President-elect Donald Trump’s undefined stance on Asia has created uncertainty and anxiety throughout the region.

“The United States is a very important strategic and economic partner,” consequently, countries throughout the region are “anxious to find out what the new administration is going to do…and anxious to work with the new administration,” said Meredith Miller, vice president of Albright Stonebridge Group.

On December 2, Trump spoke with Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen, in what the Washington Post reported was “a breach of protocol that could disrupt US-China ties before the inauguration.” The call was the first by a US president-elect or president since Jimmy Carter switched diplomatic recognition from China to Taiwan in 1979. Since 1979, US-China relations have been governed by the “one-China” policy under which the United States acknowledges Beijing’s claim that Taiwan is part of China.
Taiwan is poised to beat the United States by electing its first female President in 2016. Former teacher and Nationalist (KMT) candidate Hung Hsiu-chu is battling her Western-educated Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) challenger Tsai Ing-wen for the presidency. Several prominent Taiwanese polls predict a Tsai victory, said Bonnie Glaser, a Senior Advisor for Asia in the Freeman Chair in China Studies at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

European arms sellers are helping shape Asian security.

Washington worries increasingly about developments in the Asia-Pacific region. The Pentagon has done more than publish a maritime strategy for that part of the world—it has begun to shift military assets that way. Yet it is often said that this is a region in which Washington will not be able to count on its traditional allies in Europe. This is notwithstanding France and the United Kingdom joining the most recent Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise, and even smaller Norway coming along with its frigate Fridtjof Nansen, as a tip of the hat to the importance of American security interests in Asia. With few exceptions, Europe consists of smaller nations that may have considerable economic interests in Asia, but they can hardly be expected to join the United States in keeping the peace and managing crisis in the vast Asia-Pacific region. Indeed, many US allies in Europe believe that Afghanistan was a bridge too far for them. In any case, turbulence around the Mediterranean rim, the rise of ISIS, and an increasingly aggressive Russia under Putin will keep European militaries focused closer to home for the foreseeable future. While Washington should hardly expect European deployments of hard power to Asia, European nations have other linkages that could help shape the security environment and military behavior in the region.
Where is North Korea headed? When we last heard from the Boy General, Kim Jong-un, he was rationalizing the sudden and brutal execution of Pyongyang’s No.2,  Jang Sang Thaek, followed by threats to “strike mercilessly without notice” in response to anti-Kim protests in Seoul.
To answer Hugh White’s initial question, ‘what is America’s ultimate aim in Asia today?’, there is no mystery about American aims in Asia: it is simply a rules-based order with unimpeded access to the global commons.
A widely held belief among many in China is that every US policy move affecting the country is part of a concerted strategy of containment aimed at preventing its reemergence. Thus, the US "rebalancing" in Asia, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the US alliances with Japan, South Korea and Australia are all components of a US effort to maintain US dominance at China's expense. This view is wrong.