Is war with China inevitable?
Some Westerners fear China's rise but a strong China usually means less need for war, says David Kang, Professor of International Relations at USC.
David C. Kang is Maria Crutcher Professor of International Relations at the University of Southern California, with appointments in both the School of International Relations and the Marshall School of Business. At USC he is also director of the Korean Studies Institute. Kang's latest book is "American Grand Strategy and East Asian Security in the 21st Century," (2017, Cambridge University Press). He is also author of "East Asia Before the West: Five Centuries of Trade and Tribute"; "China Rising: Peace, Power, and Order in East Asia"; "Crony Capitalism: Corruption and Development in South Korea and the Philippines"; and "Nuclear North Korea: A Debate on Engagement Strategies" (co-authored with Victor Cha). Kang has published numerous scholarly articles in journals such as International Organization and International Security, and his co-authored article “Testing Balance of Power Theory in World History" was awarded “Best article, 2007-2009," by the European Journal of International Relations. Kang has also written opinion pieces in the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, as well as writing a monthly column for the Joongang Ilbo in
David Kang: One of the most interesting patterns in East Asian history—which is quite different from the European pattern—is that when China is strong and big there’s a lot less fighting.
And when China falls apart then there’s some vicious fighting as everybody jockeys for position.
So whether we go back to the transition of the Ming dynasty in the 17th century or we get to the collapse of the Qing dynasty in the 20th century, when China is weak there’s a lot of fighting. When China is strong, in many ways countries get along better.
Well, the rise of China in the last 20 years in many ways has been accompanied with increasing stability around the region.
If you go back 40 years ago to 1978, that’s the beginning of China’s economic reforms and its phenomenal economic growth. Before then, China was a poor country caught in the throes of a cultural revolution where maybe a million Chinese died; they were fomenting revolution and supporting revolutionary groups around the region.
Since that time over the last 40 years China’s economy has exploded. 400 million Chinese have gone out of poverty. It looks nothing like it was before.
So China’s domestic situation is far more stable than before. At the same time, what’s happening to trade in the region? Everybody is now trading with China. Countries may not like what China is doing politically, but they don’t fear invasion. Vietnam isn’t worried about invasion. Korea is not worried about invasion. But what do they do? They are trying to rapidly expand their economic links with China.
So the region now is getting knit together in a way that it used to look like before, and so there’s more interaction among these countries, not less.
One the things that’s not that surprising —but also really important—is how little we in the West, we in the United States know about East Asian history. Almost all of our theories in IR, almost all of the history we learn, whether it’s in high school or college or even graduate school, is about Europe. And that’s fine. Sure. I understand why it is.
But the fact is there’s a lot of East Asian history that doesn’t look anything like European history. And if we want to understand that reason it might help to actually understand East Asian history.
You know, I do think that there is an incredibly important role for area studies knowledge, for scholars who know the region who have spent their lifetime studying.
In many ways this Eurocentric focus really does put us at a disadvantage in making policy towards Asia, because in some ways we are talking ourselves into conflicts that I don’t think necessarily have to exist. And the perfect example is this whole Thucydides trap.
If you go to DC right now or if you read almost any foreign policy magazine—or even scholarly journals—that talk about East Asia it is essentially a conventional wisdom now. Essentially I would say scholars and policymakers from the left and from the right, almost everybody takes for granted in the United States that “China’s rise can be a threat,” that “we better be prepared to contain,” that “there’s going to be some kind of a titanic struggle.”
But most of this is based not on what China is doing but is based on a belief that “it must inevitably happen, so just wait. It may not be happening now, but it’s going to happen in the future.”
So even when, for example, I’ll do a talk and I’ll show evidence over the last 25 years that in many ways East Asia is more stable and defense spending is not a big as people think, I’m met with a wall of skepticism where people are like, “No, no, no, you don’t understand, just wait. It’s going to happen in the future.”
It’s not based on any knowledge, it’s not based on any evidence, it’s based on a belief about the world, but that belief about the world is informed from Europe and not East Asia.
And so having real knowledge about the informal rules and lessons and places to avoid is incredibly important.
And one thing that happens with U.S. businesses—this goes back decades—is that often American businesses will choose advisers—you need a guide. You absolutely need a guide from the inside.
But I’ve seen this happen over and over again where an American business had a French consulting company help them do something in Europe, so they feel comfortable with a French company, and they will choose that company to help them go to China. And it never made any sense to me! They choose that because that’s who they know.
Or an American advisor who says, “Well, I helped you get into Costa Rica; I can help you go to China.”
There’s only one way to do it, which is to put the time in, do your due diligence, and find a guy on the inside.
I did a project once for a foreign company, and they came to me after they had had— this is in Korea, I helped a company go to Korea set up a business there, and they only came to me after they had hired a Singaporean consulting company to help then go to Korea!
And remember when we talked I was like, why would you hire the Singaporeans? They’re not Korean!
And yet companies often skimp on that, they skimp on the most important things, which are these local domestic knowledge that can help you really understand “don’t talk to that guy and that guy, because they both hate each other” kind of issues that is only available when you have the deep local knowledge.
I know these are generic points and they seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many companies just simply barge ahead without actually spending enough time and finding the right local fixers.
You can see this in the ways in which we have advisers to the U.S. government. The actual number of people who have deep knowledge of the region are easily outnumbered by those who have technical knowledge or nuclear weapons knowledge or arms control knowledge or regular, generic knowledge of international relations.
I just don’t think we’re even that aware of, much less supportive of, having people who actually know the region.
They only need one or two, and yet the number of people who expound on “this is what China is doing” who have no idea what China looks like but are IR scholars, IR theorists, or arms control theorists far outnumber those who are actually China experts—or East Asia experts or Vietnam experts.
And so in many ways I actually think this is an important thing that we need to start to rectify, both in scholarship and in effecting policy. We need better area studies knowledge.
Some Westerners fear China's rise but a strong China usually means less fighting, says David Kang, Professor of International Relations at USC. The conventional wisdom about East Asia is often wrong because it's too Eurocentric. Our governments and businesses hire people who think like them and don't really understand the history and the nuances of the region.
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Eating veggies is good for you. Now we can stop debating how much we should eat.
- A massive new study confirms that five servings of fruit and veggies a day can lower the risk of death.
- The maximum benefit is found at two servings of fruit and three of veggies—anything more offers no extra benefit according to the researchers.
- Not all fruits and veggies are equal. Leafy greens are better for you than starchy corn and potatoes.
An open letter predicts that a massive wall of rock is about to plunge into Barry Arm Fjord in Alaska.
- A remote area visited by tourists and cruises, and home to fishing villages, is about to be visited by a devastating tsunami.
- A wall of rock exposed by a receding glacier is about crash into the waters below.
- Glaciers hold such areas together — and when they're gone, bad stuff can be left behind.
The Barry Glacier gives its name to Alaska's Barry Arm Fjord, and a new open letter forecasts trouble ahead.
Thanks to global warming, the glacier has been retreating, so far removing two-thirds of its support for a steep mile-long slope, or scarp, containing perhaps 500 million cubic meters of material. (Think the Hoover Dam times several hundred.) The slope has been moving slowly since 1957, but scientists say it's become an avalanche waiting to happen, maybe within the next year, and likely within 20. When it does come crashing down into the fjord, it could set in motion a frightening tsunami overwhelming the fjord's normally peaceful waters .
The Barry Arm Fjord
Camping on the fjord's Black Sand Beach
Image source: Matt Zimmerman
The Barry Arm Fjord is a stretch of water between the Harriman Fjord and the Port Wills Fjord, located at the northwest corner of the well-known Prince William Sound. It's a beautiful area, home to a few hundred people supporting the local fishing industry, and it's also a popular destination for tourists — its Black Sand Beach is one of Alaska's most scenic — and cruise ships.
Not Alaska’s first watery rodeo, but likely the biggest
Image source: whrc.org
There have been at least two similar events in the state's recent history, though not on such a massive scale. On July 9, 1958, an earthquake nearby caused 40 million cubic yards of rock to suddenly slide 2,000 feet down into Lituya Bay, producing a tsunami whose peak waves reportedly reached 1,720 feet in height. By the time the wall of water reached the mouth of the bay, it was still 75 feet high. At Taan Fjord in 2015, a landslide caused a tsunami that crested at 600 feet. Both of these events thankfully occurred in sparsely populated areas, so few fatalities occurred.
The Barry Arm event will be larger than either of these by far.
"This is an enormous slope — the mass that could fail weighs over a billion tonnes," said geologist Dave Petley, speaking to Earther. "The internal structure of that rock mass, which will determine whether it collapses, is very complex. At the moment we don't know enough about it to be able to forecast its future behavior."
Outside of Alaska, on the west coast of Greenland, a landslide-produced tsunami towered 300 feet high, obliterating a fishing village in its path.
What the letter predicts for Barry Arm Fjord
Moving slowly at first...
Image source: whrc.org
"The effects would be especially severe near where the landslide enters the water at the head of Barry Arm. Additionally, areas of shallow water, or low-lying land near the shore, would be in danger even further from the source. A minor failure may not produce significant impacts beyond the inner parts of the fiord, while a complete failure could be destructive throughout Barry Arm, Harriman Fiord, and parts of Port Wells. Our initial results show complex impacts further from the landslide than Barry Arm, with over 30 foot waves in some distant bays, including Whittier."
The discovery of the impeding landslide began with an observation by the sister of geologist Hig Higman of Ground Truth, an organization in Seldovia, Alaska. Artist Valisa Higman was vacationing in the area and sent her brother some photos of worrying fractures she noticed in the slope, taken while she was on a boat cruising the fjord.
Higman confirmed his sister's hunch via available satellite imagery and, digging deeper, found that between 2009 and 2015 the slope had moved 600 feet downhill, leaving a prominent scar.
Ohio State's Chunli Dai unearthed a connection between the movement and the receding of the Barry Glacier. Comparison of the Barry Arm slope with other similar areas, combined with computer modeling of the possible resulting tsunamis, led to the publication of the group's letter.
While the full group of signatories from 14 organizations and institutions has only been working on the situation for a month, the implications were immediately clear. The signers include experts from Ohio State University, the University of Southern California, and the Anchorage and Fairbanks campuses of the University of Alaska.
Once informed of the open letter's contents, the Alaska's Department of Natural Resources immediately released a warning that "an increasingly likely landslide could generate a wave with devastating effects on fishermen and recreationalists."
How do you prepare for something like this?
Image source: whrc.org
The obvious question is what can be done to prepare for the landslide and tsunami? For one thing, there's more to understand about the upcoming event, and the researchers lay out their plan in the letter:
"To inform and refine hazard mitigation efforts, we would like to pursue several lines of investigation: Detect changes in the slope that might forewarn of a landslide, better understand what could trigger a landslide, and refine tsunami model projections. By mapping the landslide and nearby terrain, both above and below sea level, we can more accurately determine the basic physical dimensions of the landslide. This can be paired with GPS and seismic measurements made over time to see how the slope responds to changes in the glacier and to events like rainstorms and earthquakes. Field and satellite data can support near-real time hazard monitoring, while computer models of landslide and tsunami scenarios can help identify specific places that are most at risk."
In the letter, the authors reached out to those living in and visiting the area, asking, "What specific questions are most important to you?" and "What could be done to reduce the danger to people who want to visit or work in Barry Arm?" They also invited locals to let them know about any changes, including even small rock-falls and landslides.
The famous cognition test was reworked for cuttlefish. They did better than expected.
- Scientists recently ran the Stanford marshmallow experiment on cuttlefish and found they were pretty good at it.
- The test subjects could wait up to two minutes for a better tasting treat.
- The study suggests cuttlefish are smarter than you think but isn't the final word on how bright they are.
Proof that some people are less patient than invertebrates<iframe width="730" height="430" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/H1yhGClUJ0U" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe><p> The common cuttlefish is a small cephalopod notable for producing sepia ink and relative intelligence for an invertebrate. Studies have shown them to be capable of remembering important details from previous foraging experiences, and to adjust their foraging strategies in response to changing circumstances. </p><p>In a new study, published in <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2020.3161" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">The Proceedings of the Royal Society B</a>, researchers demonstrated that the critters have mental capacities previously thought limited to vertebrates.</p><p>After determining that cuttlefish are willing to eat raw king prawns but prefer a live grass shrimp, the researchers trained them to associate certain symbols on see-through containers with a different level of accessibility. One symbol meant the cuttlefish could get into the box and eat the food inside right away, another meant there would be a delay before it opened, and the last indicated the container could not be opened.</p><p>The cephalopods were then trained to understand that upon entering one container, the food in the other would be removed. This training also introduced them to the idea of varying delay times for the boxes with the second <a href="https://www.sciencealert.com/cuttlefish-can-pass-a-cognitive-test-designed-for-children" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">symbol</a>. </p><p>Two of the cuttlefish recruited for the study "dropped out," at this point, but the remaining six—named Mica, Pinto, Demi, Franklin, Jebidiah, and Rogelio—all caught on to how things worked pretty quickly.</p><p>It was then that the actual experiment could begin. The cuttlefish were presented with two containers: one that could be opened immediately with a raw king prawn, and one that held a live grass shrimp that would only open after a delay. The subjects could always see both containers and had the ability to go to the immediate access option if they grew tired of waiting for the other. The poor control group was faced with a box that never opened and one they could get into right away.</p><p>In the end, the cuttlefish demonstrated that they would wait anywhere between 50 and 130 seconds for the better treat. This is the same length of time that some primates and birds have shown themselves to be able to wait for.</p><p>Further tests of the subject's cognitive abilities—they were tested to see how long it took them to associate a symbol with a prize and then on how long it took them to catch on when the symbols were switched—showed a relationship between how long a cuttlefish was willing to wait and how quickly it learned the associations. </p>
All of this is interesting, but what use could it possibly have?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTcxNzY2MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MTM0MzYyMH0.lKFLPfutlflkzr_NM6WmnosKM1rU6UEIHWlyzWhYQNM/img.jpg?width=1245&coordinates=0%2C10%2C0%2C88&height=700" id="77c04" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7eb9d5b2d890496756a69fb45ceac87c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="1245" data-height="700" />
A diagram showing the experimental set up. On the left is the control condition, on the right is the experimental condition.
Credit: Alexandra K. Schnell et al., 2021<p> As you can probably guess, the ability to delay gratification as part of a plan is not the most common thing in the animal kingdom. While humans, apes, some birds, and dogs can do it, less intelligent animals can't. </p><p>While it is reasonably simple to devise a hypothesis for why social humans, tool-making chimps, or hunting birds are able to delay gratification, the cuttlefish is neither social, a toolmaker, or is it hunting anything particularly <a href="https://gizmodo.com/cuttlefish-are-able-to-wait-for-a-reward-1846392756" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">intelligent</a>. Why they evolved this capacity is up for debate. </p><p>Lead author Alexandra Schnell of the University of Cambridge discussed their speculations on the evolutionary advantage cuttlefish might get out of this skill with <a href="https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/mbl-qc022621.php" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Eurekalert:</a> </p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"> "Cuttlefish spend most of their time camouflaging, sitting and waiting, punctuated by brief periods of foraging. They break camouflage when they forage, so they are exposed to every predator in the ocean that wants to eat them. We speculate that delayed gratification may have evolved as a byproduct of this, so the cuttlefish can optimize foraging by waiting to choose better quality food."</p><p>Given the unique evolutionary tree of the cuttlefish, its cognitive abilities are an example of convergent evolution, in which two unrelated animals, in this case primates and cuttlefish, evolve the same trait to solve similar problems. These findings could help shed light on the evolution of the cuttlefish and its relatives. </p><p> It should be noted that this study isn't definitive; at the moment, we can't make a useful comparison between the overall intelligence of the cuttlefish and the other animals that can or cannot pass some variation of the marshmallow test.</p><p>Despite this, the results are quite exciting and will likely influence future research into animal intelligence. If the common cuttlefish can pass the marshmallow test, what else can?</p>