Archive for July, 2010

China’s environmental degradation as a national security issue?

July 29, 2010

In China, Pollution Worsens Despite New Efforts,” by Andrew Jacobs, July 28, 2010

I saw this timely article in the New York Times and couldn’t help but note the coincidence of my current visit to Beijing.  Immediately upon arriving earlier this week, I just couldn’t believe the degree of smog and pollution in the city; it really is the worst I have ever seen and worse than I had imagined possible.  I can’t just say something like that and not show examples, so here are a few photos from our recent visit to Tiananmen Square.

If that doesn’t tell the tale, then these photos taken from the window of our accommodations should do the trick:

I figured that the anti-pollution efforts taken in advance of the 2008 Olympics here would have made a positive impact on the air quality in Beijing, but according to the article

Many of the most polluting industries were forced to relocate far from the capital before the 2008 Summer Olympics, but the wind often carries their emissions hundreds of miles back.

And it goes on to add

In Beijing, driving restrictions that removed a fifth of private cars from roads each weekday have been offset by 250,000 new cars that hit the city streets in the first four months of 2010.

Finally, I can’t help but wonder at what point does this degree of pollution become a national security liability?  I can’t imagine that the citizens of Beijing are happy with it, and at some point the positive returns that the economic development driving the pollution increases will have to be outweighed by the fact that it is no longer safe to go outdoors and young kids are coming down with emphysema.  Then what?  Will the Chinese then seek changes to address environmental concerns of a political nature that are unacceptable to the ruling authoritarian Communist Party of China?

Once more, here’s the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/29/world/asia/29china.html?src=twt&twt=nytimesglobal

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China’s image at the Expo

July 27, 2010

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I had a chance to visit the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai this week.  It is a grand display, amazing it its scope, and it boggles the mind in its scale.  We were lucky to visit on a recent evening when it was cool and had just rained, thinning the crowds somewhat.

I am sure I am not the only visitor to come away from the 2010 Expo a bit flummoxed by the China Pavilion (pictured).  First, it completely dominates the eastern end of the expo grounds on the Pudong side of the overall site (there is a smaller piece of land with Expo-related pavilions and displays on the west side of the Huangpu River, or Puxi).  The China Pavilion is easily 5 times the size of any other country’s entry, and not only that, but it is surrounded by its “vassals” as if surrounding a throne – Hong Kong, Macau, and yes, Taiwan’s Pavilions are all clustered immediately adjacent to the massive China “throne” and are far, far smaller.

This proximity and size among the pavilions of  “greater China” is further amplified by the location of potential competitors, like say the United States.  I have been told that the U.S. pavilion is at the extreme opposite end of the Pudong Expo site (traveling with a 4-year old, we didn’t make it that far) and I am sure it is much smaller.  Granted, yes, China is the host of the Expo and I’m sure that if the expo was being held in the U.S. that an American pavilion would probably also be the largest and grandest, but this Chinese entry is to me a none-too-subtle message that “China has stood up.”

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Going behind the “Great Firewall of China”

July 19, 2010

I am out and about traveling in East Asia with my family as a part of the cultural immersion portion of my studies in Taiwan. Soon I will be heading behind the so-called Great Firewall of China (the internet filter that the People’s Republic of China uses to restrict its citizens access to many parts of the internet), and I am very interested to see whether or not I will be able to access the places on the interwebs that I normally frequent. I am prepared – I have purchased and installed a VPN on my equipment, so I think that the effect will probably be negligible. Nonetheless, it will be a first for me – my first trip to the PRC.

As a funny aside, today when we went to the China visa application office, we had inadvertently written R.O.C (Republic of China) on some of our application paperwork as a part of our address in Taiwan, and this did not get past the visa clerk. She said, "You must cross out R.O.C. – never say it!" I thought it was kind of funny, but my wife was wondering why they were so upset, it’s just part of our address, right? Yes, but well, there’s some baggage attached…I explained as we rode the train back to our hotel.

And we’re back! Thoughts on new Cyber Command deputy

July 2, 2010

Closed out the semester at school this week, so I should have more time to post things here now.  First thing I wanted to talk about was a recent general officer announcement that caught my eye yesterday:

Defense.gov News Release: Flag Officer Announcements.

Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates announced today that the President has made the following nominations:

Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr. for appointment to the rank of lieutenant general and assignment as deputy commander, U.S. Cyber Command.  Maj. Gen. Schmidle is currently serving as assistant deputy commandant for programs and resources (programs) in Washington, D.C.

First, this is a good thing for the Marine Corps.  It’s useful for us as an institution to have our senior officers serving at high levels amongst the various combatant and sub-unified commands.  For instance, right now we’ve got one Marine general serving as Commander, U.S. Joint Forces Command, and I know of at least one other Marine three-star (besides the new one announce above) who is serving as a combatant command deputy commander (at Central Command).  Of course, we also have Gen Cartwright, former U.S. Strategic Command commander, who is the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Secondly, the selection of General Schmidle for Deputy, U.S. Cyber Command it a bit odd…I mean, the man is a career pilot!  What specific knowledge about cyber operations does he have?  Well, as it turns out, it probably doesn’t matter a whole lot.  Seems that even at the senior officer ranks, it’s often the requirement that a person bring “general-purpose smarts” and adaptability to a position, not that the absolute perfect expert in a particular field or discipline be magically assigned to the job in question.  It’s clear to me that this has long been the case at the junior officer ranks; I am beginning to see that it does not change as one moves up the ladder.

Also, if for some reason you think that I was calling General Schmidle a dummy or disparaging pilots in general, that is most certainly not the case.  A brief glance at Schmidle’s bio shows you that he has a proven record of success in challenging assignments  apart from flying and command jobs that require a fair amount of grey matter activity.  For example, he’s a distinguished graduate of both intermediate and top-level professional military education schools, and he is currently pursuing a PhD from Georgetown during his “off time.”  He’s been involved with some of the Marine Corps’ most prominent warfighting experiments, served as military secretary to a pair of Marine commandants, and most recently, was the Marine Corps’ lead representative for the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.

There’s nothing in there about computer network operations, or any cyber this, that, or the other.  But it won’t matter.  General Schmidle is a well-educated, smart, adaptable leader who will do a great job as the Cyber Command deputy and learn a lot in the process.

Congratulations, Lieutenant General!

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