Drone swarms China’s Way to Win Future War

China’s UAV swarm. Photo from Tencent footage.

Financial Times says in its recent article “Drone swarm vs conventional arms: China’s military debate” that there is debate in China’s military whether China shall focus on expensive conventional arms such as aircraft carriers, stealth warplanes, etc. or pursue a new generation of weapons with revolutionary strategy that uses large number of cheap arms coordinated with advanced software to outdo the above-mentioned very expensive conventional arms.

The article specifically discusses the new system of drone swarm. It says that there is debate in Chinese military whether to stick to the old strategy of developing conventional expensive weapons or switch to new systems of much cheaper drone swarm.

China has a boom in developing, producing and exporting drones in which China’s private enterprises play a very important role as drones are both military and civilian.

The article says Chinese President Xi Jinping created a Military-Civil Integration Development Commission with himself as head. This commission enables China’s private enterprises to play an increasingly important role in weapon development as they develop technology for both civilian and military application.

That shows that Xi, as the leader with centralized power approves the new strategy; therefore the debate is but the writer of the article’s invention.

The article says that swarm technology can reverse the trend of the deployment of fewer but more advanced and expensive weapon platforms. It regards drone swarm as the next generation of weapon that may outdo sophisticated technology systems by the sheer numbers of autonomous drones.

The article quotes Elsa Kania, an independent researcher on Chinese military affair, as saying, “The People’s Liberation Army anticipates that swarm intelligence and swarming tactics could serve as an asymmetric means to target high-value US weapons platforms.”

True enough on June 11 China Electronics Technology Group, a state-owned high-tech company, showcases its world’s largest swarm of 119 drones controlled by software of artificial intelligence, breaking US-held record (see my post “Swarms at War: Chinese Advances in Swarm Intelligence” on July 12).

As China is now the world’s factory able to produce large quantity of low-cost goods, the article believes that the tactical trend of using lots of robots to outdo sophisticated weapons clearly favors China.

It says, “Another trend favouring China is that next-generation defence technologies are more and more indistinguishable from the civilian technologies mass produced in cities like Shenzhen.”

“A third trend favouring China is that software has become more important than hardware.”

It seems that the article believes that China will surpass the US militarily if robot warfare prevails in the future.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Financial Times’ article, full text of which can be found at https://www.ft.com/content/302fc14a-66ef-11e7-8526-7b38dcaef614.


China develops new RPG-defeating net for Armored Fighting Vehicles

Close up of the Chinese flexible grid armour system, which is designed to neutralise incoming single high-explosive anti-tank warheads. (Christopher F Foss)

Christopher F Foss – IHS Jane’s International Defence Review 24 August 2017

China has developed a new armour system called Flexible Grid Armour (FGA), which is now being marketed for export by China North Industries Corporation (NORINCO).

The FGA is designed to provide tracked and wheeled armoured fighting vehicles (AFVs) with increased protection against anti-tank threats, such as the high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead fired by the widely deployed RPG-7 rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher.

The system comprises a tubular frame, which is attached a short distance from the hull of the platform and contains strands of taut wire that are secured by square links.

The taut wire is designed to neutralise the piezo-electric fuze of incoming HEAT warheads so that it does not detonate against the hull.

The FGA would not be fitted during routine training as it increases the overall width of the platform and can potentially be damaged when operating in rough terrain.

In addition to the FGA, NORINCO has also expanded its range of explosive reactive armour (ERA) and passive armour packages for AFVs.

Source: Jane’s “China develops new RPG-defeating net for AFVs”

Note: This is Jane’s’ article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

The Kra Canal: Double bypass for China

Kra would permit ships transiting between the Indian and Pacific Oceans to bypass Singapore. (Photo: Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images)

By David Brewster 14 August 2017 07:22 AEDT

Recent reports that Thailand, with Chinese money, is planning to build a new canal between the Pacific and Indian Oceans have set off a new wave of alarm bells over China’s plans to dominate the region. If – and it is a big if – the project goes ahead, it will create some big winners and losers.

The project would involve carving a US$28 billion, 135km canal through the Thai isthmus between the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea, cutting some 1200km (or two to three days) off journeys between the Indian and Pacific Ocean. It would be the Asian equivalent of the Suez Canal or the Panama Canal, and would be substantially more difficult to build.

The idea has been around for a long time. A really long time. The British and French looked at it in the nineteenth century. They decided it was too hard, but the British still extracted a promise from the King of Siam that no-one else would be allowed to do it. In the 1930s, there was a scare about Japanese plans to build it, which would have allowed the Japanese fleet to bypass the British base at Singapore. Here’s a classic 1940 British newsreel that explains everything you need to know on the subject (including a real Samurai).

Video of Kra! A Pathetone Special (1940) (The video can be viewed at https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/kra-canal-double-bypass)

New plans to build the canal have been kicking around since the turn of this century, but no-one has been able to make the project economic. Maybe this time it will go ahead with Chinese Belt and Road funding.

Some security analysts worry that the Canal would solve China’s famous ‘Malacca Dilemma’ by allowing its oil tankers to avoid the narrow, crowded and vulnerable Malacca Strait and even give the Chinese navy a new route into the Indian Ocean. The Chinese navy is certainly going to get a lot more active in the Indian Ocean in coming years, as was well demonstrated last month when China opened its first overseas naval base in Djibouti.

But the likely impact of the Kra Canal is less about battleships and more about shipping containers.

The Canal is like building a new highway that will bypass a town, leaving the local service stations and cafés stranded while creating opportunities to build new service centres elsewhere. Kra would permit ships transiting between the Indian and Pacific Oceans to bypass Singapore, potentially damaging Singapore’s hold on shipping services and helping to open up that space for China and its friends.

Since Singapore was established as a way station for the Indo-Pacific opium trade it has relied on geography for its prosperity, helping it become one of the world’s biggest transhipment hubs and provider of shipping and all its related services, from banks to law firms. That is now under threat from Chinese-funded port projects being developed right across Southern Asia.

The biggest winner from the Canal could be Sri Lanka, which lies astride the busy sea lanes of the northern Indian Ocean, making it an obvious choice for a new shipping hub. Much of China’s investment on the island over the last few years has been aimed at building up that island’s shipping infrastructure. This has included building a new port at Hambantota, which China has recently taken control of. A much bigger project is the controversial Colombo Port City, which involves building a whole new business district to service the port, largely under Chinese control.

Colombo is already by far the biggest transhipment hub for India, while Singapore’s volume of Indian transhipment is falling. If Chinese-owned ships are able to take a short cut through Kra, then Sri Lanka’s competitive advantage only improves. India is responding with its own greenfield port projects, but there are significant doubts that it has the ability to bring all the necessary elements together.

Sri Lanka has long aspired to become an Asian trading hub like Singapore and successive governments have seen Singapore’s model for development as having special significance. Sri Lanka now hopes to break through the many problems left over from its 30-year civil war with the help of China’s Maritime Silk Road initiative. It may also be in a position to play off other big investors, such as Japan.

Sri Lanka is doing well in the transhipment market, assisted by the woeful state of most Indian ports, which can’t handle large capacity container ships. But a far bigger prize than the competitive and low-margin transhipment trade would involve ‘opening the boxes’ and moving up the value chain just as Singapore did, and potentially turning Colombo into a regional hub for logistics, maintenance, engineering and financial and legal services – sitting just off India’s coast. That is a lot of what the Colombo Port City project is about.

Singapore, always keenly aware of its own vulnerabilities, is already concerned about the potential for Sri Lanka to become a competitor, although it is also aware how many systemic problems Sri Lanka must overcome before it can compete in providing sophisticated, high value services.

For the moment, the Kra Canal may be just a dream. That’s what they once said about Panama before the US, then a rising regional power, decided that the canal was necessary to give it access to its second ocean.

Source: The Interpreter of Lowy Institute “The Kra Canal: Double bypass”

Note: This is Lowy Institute’s article I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the article’s views.

Saudis may seek funding in Chinese yuan

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud meets with Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli, in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, August 24, 2017. Bandar Algaloud/Courtesy of Saudi Royal Court/Handout via REUTERS

Reem Shamseddine and Katie Paul August 24, 2017 / 6:33 PM

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia is willing to consider funding itself partly in Chinese yuan, a senior Saudi official said on Thursday, raising the possibility of closer financial ties between the two countries.

The Saudi government has started borrowing tens of billions of dollars abroad in the past year to cover a big budget deficit caused by low oil prices, but its foreign bond issues and loans have been denominated entirely in U.S. currency.

Obtaining some funds in yuan could give Riyadh more financial flexibility and would mark a success for China, the biggest market for Saudi oil, in its drive to make the yuan a top international currency.

“One of our main objectives is to diversify the funding basis of Saudi Arabia,” Vice Minister of Economy and Planning Mohammed al-Tuwaijri told a Saudi-Chinese conference in Jeddah.

“We will do that through access to investors or bodies of liquidity in the markets. China is by far one of the top markets. We will also access other technical markets in terms of unique funding opportunities, private placements, panda bonds and others.”
Tuwaijri added, “We will be very willing to consider funding in renminbi and other Chinese products, and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (601398.SS) and other divisions have shown interest for us to do that.”

Panda bonds are yuan-denominated bonds from non-Chinese issuers which are sold within China. An Liyan, chief executive of ICBC International, an arm of ICBC, the biggest Chinese bank, told the conference that her bank was willing to sponsor Saudi issues of panda bonds.

Tuwaijri said Riyadh was interested in raising money abroad not just to cover its budget deficit but also, more importantly, to finance major investment projects that would expand its economy and create jobs.

“Ideally, we would be funding through project finance and bond markets and other means,” he said.

Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference that Saudi Arabia and China planned to establish a $20 billion investment fund on a 50:50 basis.

“It is preliminary at this stage but the commitment from the top is there,” Falih said. He said the fund would invest in sectors such as infrastructure, energy, mining and materials, but did not give further details of its strategy.

China has announced plans to establish such joint investment funds around the world in recent years as a way to cement bilateral economic ties. In December 2015 Beijing said it would establish a $10 billion fund with the United Arab Emirates, and last October a plan for a fund with France was revealed.

The Jeddah conference followed a visit to China by Saudi Arabia’s King Salman in March during which as much as $65 billion of business deals were signed in sectors including oil refining, petrochemicals, light manufacturing and electronics.

Falih said on Thursday that he expected 11 business deals worth about $20 billion to be signed with China this week. He did not give details; some of the deals may be more detailed versions of agreements reached on the Asian tour, and some may be memorandums of understanding rather than concrete projects.

Saudi Arabia is keen to attract Chinese investment to new industries, such as manufacturing and tourism, that it hopes to develop as part of efforts to diversify its economy beyond oil exports.

But Riyadh is also eager to boost the profits of its main sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund, which is believed to have around $180 billion of assets. The PIF is looking at investment opportunities in China’s shipping and transport systems and other infrastructure, Tuwaijri said.

Writing by Andrew Torchia; Editing by Richard Balmforth

Source: Reuters “Saudis may seek funding in Chinese yuan”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China commits to cut northern air pollution by 15 percent

Spectators wearing masks watches the men’s singles match between Tomas Berdych of Czech Republic and Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay on a polluted day at the China Open tennis tournament in Beijing, China, October 7, 2015. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon
Picture Supplied by Action Images

David Stanway August 24, 2017 / 1:28 PM

SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China has pledged to cut average concentrations of airborne particles known as PM2.5 by more than 15 percent year-on-year in the winter months in 28 northern cities to meet key smog targets, the environment ministry said.

In a 143-page winter smog “battleplan” posted on its website on Thursday, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said the new target, for the October to March period, would apply to Beijing and Tianjin, along with 26 other cities in the smog-prone provinces of Hebei, Shanxi, Shandong and Henan.

China’s efforts to control pollution have often roiled the prices of steel, iron ore and coal with output routinely curtailed as a result of emergency smog regulations and inspection campaigns.

China is under pressure this year to meet politically important 2017 air quality targets. It aims to cut 2012 levels of PM2.5 by more than a quarter in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and bring average concentrations down to 60 micrograms per cubic meter in the Chinese capital.

But PM2.5 averages rose in the first seven months of the year as a result of near record-high smog in January and February, which China blamed on “unfavorable weather conditions”.

Experts still believe, however, that China remains on course to meet the 2017 targets set out in a groundbreaking air quality action plan published by the government in 2013.

“Actually, air quality from April to June was among the best over the last five years in Beijing and we still have confidence in achieving the target,” said Shelley Yang, a project manager at the Clean Air Alliance of China (CAAC), a non-profit organization that includes academic, government and corporate organizations that “care about clean air”.

The extremely high PM2.5 levels in January and February will also make it easier for cities to achieve the 15 percent cut in the new year.

The government is still leaving nothing to chance, with some of China’s smoggiest cities under pressure to complete annual steel and coal closure targets by the end of September and implement tougher restrictions in the following months.

By October, big steelmaking cities like Tangshan and Handan must have plans in place to cut output by as much as 50 percent to limit smog during the winter heating season starting in November.

The region is also under pressure to eliminate thousands of coal-fired boilers, further restrict coal haulage on roads and ensure that power generators, steel mills and coking plants complete upgrades aimed at controlling emissions before heating systems are switched on.

Hebei is responsible for a quarter of China’s steel output, with Tangshan alone producing around 100 million tonnes a year, more than the United States. Neighboring Shanxi is China’s biggest coal producer, with more than 900 million tonnes of annual output.

In a note this week, Bank of America Merrill Lynch analysts said the winter restrictions could also reduce primary aluminum output by 400,000 tonnes this year.

In a separate notice on Thursday, the Hebei government promised to use an “iron fist” to deal with air pollution over the winter.

Additional reporting by Muyu Xu and Tom Daly in BEIJING; Editing by Tom Hogue

Source: “China commits to cut northern air pollution by 15 percent”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

China’s Xi pledges to address differences with South Korea: Xinhua

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s President Xi Jinping pledged to make concerted efforts with South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in to address differences between the two countries properly, the official Xinhua news agency said on Thursday.

Xi made the remarks in a congratulatory message sent to Moon on the 25th anniversary of the establishment of China-South Korea diplomatic relations, Xinhua said.

Development of China-South Korea relations made a positive contribution to regional peace and development, Xinhua cited Xi as saying. The news agency did not provide further details.

South Korea and the United States agreed to deploy the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-missile system in response to the growing missile threat from North Korea.

However, the installation of the missile system has angered China, which says its powerful radar will be able to look deep into its territory and undermine regional security.

China has pressed South Korean businesses through boycotts and bans, such as ending Chinese group tours to South Korea and closing most of South Korean conglomerate Lotte Group’s Lotte Mart retail stores in China.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the exchange congratulatory messages was consistent with usual practice.

Many tangible and mutual benefits had been delivered to people of both countries since the establishment of diplomatic ties, she told a daily news briefing.

“We hope the South Korean side can summarize and look back on the experiences and lessons from the 25 years of diplomatic relations and take constructive actions to appropriately address relevant sensitive issues and differences to improve relations between China and South Korea,” Hua said.

“On the issue of THAAD, China’s position is very clear, resolute and there is no change.”

Moon has also pushed China, North Korea’s most important ally and trading partner, to do more to rein in Pyongyang’s missile and nuclear weapons programs.

North Korea has conducted two nuclear tests and dozens of missile tests since the beginning of last year, significantly raising tension on the heavily militarized Korean peninsula and in defiance of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Two intercontinental ballistic missile tests in July resulted in a new round of tougher global sanctions.

Reporting by Michael Martina; Additional reporting by Philip Wen; Editing by Michael Perry and Paul Tait

Source: Reuters “China’s Xi pledges to address differences with South Korea: Xinhua”

Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.

Does Vietnam Repent, Want to Bury Hatchet with China?

Vietnam’s General Secretary of the Communist Party and National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong talks to media after he casts his vote for members of the 14th National Assembly and People’s Councils at a polling station in Hanoi, Vietnam May 22, 2016. Photo: Kham

After the Vietnam-China standoff due to the drilling of a Chinese oil rig at disputed sea, Nguyen Phu Trong was re-elected as head of Vietnamese communist party and began détente with China.

However, Vietnam’s drilling in disputed waters through its joint venture with Spain and others was recently stopped by China as China put pressure on Spain. No wonder, Vietnam was upset and “has emerged as the most vocal opponent of China’s claims in the South China Sea,” says Reuters in its report “Vietnam calls for Southeast Asian unity amid South China Sea tension” yesterday.

Unfortunately, according to Reuters, Vietnam “has appeared increasingly isolated (in ASEAN) in challenging China’s territorial claims in the South China Sea”.

Now, in Trong’s first visit to Indonesia, he made a speech on the necessity for ASEAN to be unified in resolving territorial disputes.

Did he mean unity against China? Not likely, Reuters says in its report Vietnam is isolated in challenging China in its disputes with China. It means ASEAN’s other members oppose Vietnam’s challenge.

Reuters quotes Trong as saying, “Do not let ASEAN become a playing card for the competition among major countries”. Trong did not identify the major countries but it is very clear Trong meant China and the United States.

It seems that Trong wanted to explain that though Vietnam is improving relations with the US, it does not want to become a playing card of the United States.

Does Trong want to resume détente with China?

Will Vietnam cooperate with China in exploiting the oil and gas resources in the South China Sea like the Philippines?

Those are very interesting questions that we may soon find answers.

Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be found at http://www.reuters.com/article/us-southchinasea-vietnam-idUSKCN1B4099