“Are We Alone in the Universe?” Winston Churchill’s Lost Extraterrestrial Essay Says No

 Brian Handwerk SMITHSONIAN.COM, FEBRUARY 16, 2017

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/winston-churchill-question-alien-life-180962198/

accessed January 8, 2018

邱吉爾即將出任首相之前,寫了一篇科學探討的文章,但死後才被發現,發表。天文學家高度肯定他嚴謹的思路。他認為有外星人。

Winston Churchill, British prime minister and one of history’s most influential statesmen, was undoubtedly a man with weighty questions on his mind. How best to save the British Empire? he must have mused. What will the postwar world look like? he surely wondered. But the legendary leader also focused his prodigious mind on less pragmatic questions. For instance: Is there life on other planets?

In fact, in 1939, Churchill penned a lengthy essay on this very topic, which was never published. Besides displaying a strong grasp of contemporary astrophysics and a scientific mind, he came to a breathtaking conclusion: We are probably not alone in the universe. The long-lost piece of Churchilliana has just floated up to the surface again, thanks to an article written by astrophysicist Mario Livio in this week’s edition of the journal Nature analyzing Churchill’s work. 

“With hundreds of thousands of nebulae, each containing thousands of millions of suns, the odds are enormous that there must be immense numbers which possess planets whose circumstances would not render life impossible,” Churchill concluded in his essay. He wrote these words on the eve of World War II—more than half a century before exoplanets were discovered.  

Until last year, Churchill’s thoughts on the problem of alien life had been all but lost to history. The reason: His 11-page typed draft was never published. Sometime in the late 1950s, Churchill revised the essay while visiting the seaside villa of publisher Emery Reves, but the text still didn’t see the light of day. It appears to have languished in the Reves house until Emery’s wife Wendy gave it to the U.S. National Churchill Museum during the 1980s.

Last year, the museum’s new director, Timothy Riley, unearthed the essay in the museum’s archives. When astrophysicist Mario Livio happened to visit the museum, Riley “thrust [the] typewritten essay” into his hands, Livio writes in Nature. Riley was eager to hear the perspective of an astrophysicist. And Livio, for his part, was floored. “Imagine my thrill that I may be the first scientist to examine this essay,” he writes in Nature.

Churchill did his homework, Livio reports. Though he probably didn’t pore over peer-reviewed scientific literature, the statesman seems to have read enough, and spoke with enough top scientists—including the physicist Frederick Lindemann, his friend and later his official scientific adviser—to have had a strong grasp of the major theories and ideas of his time. But that wasn’t what left the deepest impression on Livio.

“To me the most impressive part of the essay—other than the fact that he was interested in it at all, which is pretty remarkable—is really the way that he thinks,” Livio says. “He approached the problem just as a scientist today would. To answer his question ‘Are we alone in the universe?’ he started by defining life. Then he said, ‘OK, what does life require? What are the necessary conditions for life to exist?’”

Churchill identified liquid water, for example, as a primary requirement. While he acknowledged the possibility that forms of life could exist dependent on some other liquid, he concluded that “nothing in our present knowledge entitles us to make such an assumption.”  

“This is exactly what we still do today: Try to find life by following the water,” Livio says. “But next, Churchill asked ‘What does it take for liquid water to be there?’ And so he identified this thing that today we call the habitable zone.”

By breaking down the challenge into its component parts, Churchill ended up delving into the factors necessary to create what is now known as the “Goldilocks zone” around a star: that elusive region in which a life-sustaining planet could theoretically exist. In our own solar system, he concluded, only Mars and Venus could possibly harbor life outside of Earth. The other planets don’t have the right temperatures, Churchill noted, while the Moon and asteroids lack sufficient gravity to trap gasses and sustain atmospheres.

Turning his gaze beyond our own solar system raised even more possibilities for life, at least in Churchill’s mind. “The sun is merely one star in our galaxy, which contains several thousand millions of others,” he wrote. Planetary formation would be rather rare around those stars, he admitted, drawing on a then-popular theory of noted physicist and astronomer James Jeans. But what if that theory turned out to be incorrect? (In fact, it has now been disproven.)

“That’s what I find really fascinating,” Livio notes. “The healthy skepticism that he displayed is remarkable.”

Churchill suggested that different planetary formation theories may mean that many such planets may exist which “will be the right size to keep on their surface water and possibly an atmosphere of some sort.” Of that group, some may also be “at the proper distance from their parent sun to maintain a suitable temperature.”

The statesman even expected that some day, “possibly even in the not very distant future,” visitors might see for themselves whether there is life on the moon, or even Mars.

But what was Winston Churchill doing penning a lengthy essay on the probability of alien life in the first place? After all, it was the eve of a war that would decide the fate of the free world, and Churchill was about to become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Such an undertaking was actually quite typical for Churchill, notes Andrew Nahum, Keeper Emeritus at the Science Museum, London, because it reflects both his scientific curiosity and his recurring need to write for money. It was skill with the pen that often supported Churchill and his family’s lavish lifestyle (recall that he won the 1953 Nobel Prize for Literature, with a monetary award of 175,293 Swedish Kroner worth about $275,000 today).

“One recent biography is entitled No More Champagne: Churchill And His Money,” Nahum says. “That was a phrase he put into a note to his wife about austerity measures. But he didn’t know much about austerity. He liked luxury so he wrote like crazy, both books and articles that his agent circulated widely.”  

That’s not to say that Churchill was simply slinging copy about aliens for a paycheck. “He was profoundly interested in the sciences and he read very widely,” notes Nahum, who curated the 2015 Science Museum exhibition “Churchill’s Scientists.” Nahum relates the tale of how as Chancellor of the Exchequer, Churchill was once sent a book on quantum physics, and later admitted that it had occupied him for the better part of a day that should have been spent balancing the British budget.

He not only read scientific content voraciously, but wrote on the topic as well. In a 1924 issue of Nash’s Pall Mall Magazine, Churchill anticipated the power of atomic weapons. “Might not a bomb no bigger than an orange be found to possess secret power to destroy a whole block of buildings nay, to blast a township at a stroke?” he warned. In 1932, he anticipated the rise of test-tube meat in the magazine Popular Mechanics: “Fifty years hence, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or the wing, by growing these parts separately in a suitable medium,” he wrote.

In 1939 he authored three essays, tackling not just extraterrestrial life but the evolution of life on Earth and the popular biology of the human body. Two were published during 1942 by the Sunday Dispatch, Nahum discovered when reading Churchill’s papers at the University of Cambridge. It remains a mystery why his thoughts on alien life went unpublished.

In the rediscovered essay, Churchill admits that, because of the great distances between us and other planet-harboring stars, we may never know if his hunch that life is scattered among the vastness of the cosmos is correct. Yet even without proof, Churchill seems to have convinced himself that such a possibility was likely—perhaps by swapping his scientific mind for one more finely attuned to the human condition during the troubled 20th century.

“I, for one, am not so immensely impressed by the success we are making of our civilization here that I am prepared to think we are the only spot in this immense universe which contains living, thinking creatures,” he wrote, “or that we are the highest type of mental and physical development which has ever appeared in the vast compass of space and time.”

Seventy-five years after Churchill’s bold speculations, there’s still no proof that life exists on other worlds. But, as was often the case, his analysis of our own still seems prescient.

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川普改變了美國70年來的全球政策

TRUMP, THE INSURGENT,BREAKS WITH 70 YEARS OF AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY

 MARK LANDLER New York Times, DEC. 28, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/us/politics/trump-world-diplomacy.html

accessed January 5, 2018

"Trump ...attacks allies the U.S. has nurtured since WWII... ''
川普批罵美國自二次大戰以來培養的盟友

"He has assiduously cultivated President Xi Jinping of China and avoided criticizing President Vladimir Putin of Russia -- leaders of the two countries that his own national security strategy calls the greatest geopolitical threats to America.''
川普努力培養他和中國國家主席習近平的友誼,也儘量避免批評俄羅斯總統普丁。而這兩國正是他自己國安報告裡所說的美國面臨最大哼的地緣政治威脅。

"..another hallmark of Mr. Trump's foreign policy: how much it is driven by domestic politics."
另一個川普外交政策特色是內政決定外交。

"...his bark is worse than his bite ..." 
歐洲評論家認為川普的特點是叫狗不咬。

林中斌試摘譯 2018.1.5

WASHINGTON — President Trump was already revved up when he emerged from his limousine to visit NATO’s new headquarters in Brussels last May. He had just met France’s recently elected president, Emmanuel Macron, whom he greeted with a white-knuckle handshake and a complaint that Europeans do not pay their fair share of the alliance’s costs.

On the long walk through the NATO building’s cathedral-like atrium, the president’s anger grew. He looked at the polished floors and shimmering glass walls with a property developer’s eye. (“It’s all glass,” he said later. “One bomb could take it out.”) By the time he reached an outdoor plaza where he was to speak to the other NATO leaders, Mr. Trump was fuming, according to two aides who were with him that day.

He was there to dedicate the building, but instead he took a shot at it.

“I never asked once what the new NATO headquarters cost,” Mr. Trump told the leaders, his voice thick with sarcasm. “I refuse to do that. But it is beautiful.” His visceral reaction to the $1.2 billion building, more than anything else, colored his first encounter with the alliance, aides said.

Nearly a year into his presidency, Mr. Trump remains an erratic, idiosyncratic leader on the global stage, an insurgent who attacks allies the United States has nurtured since World War II and who can seem more at home with America’s adversaries. His Twitter posts, delivered without warning or consultation, often make a mockery of his administration’s policies and subvert the messages his emissaries are trying to deliver abroad.

Mr. Trump has pulled out of trade and climate change agreements and denounced the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. He has broken with decades of American policy in the Middle East by recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. And he has taunted Kim Jong-un of North Korea as “short and fat,” fanning fears of war on the peninsula.

He has assiduously cultivated President Xi Jinping of China and avoided criticizing President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia — leaders of the two countries that his own national security strategy calls the greatest geopolitical threats to America.

Above all, Mr. Trump has transformed the world’s view of the United States from a reliable anchor of the liberal, rules-based international order into something more inward-looking and unpredictable. That is a seminal change from the role the country has played for 70 years, under presidents from both parties, and it has lasting implications for how other countries chart their futures.

Mr. Trump’s unorthodox approach “has moved a lot of us out of our comfort zone, me included,” the national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, said in an interview. A three-star Army general who served in Iraq and Afghanistan and wrote a well-regarded book about the White House’s strategic failure in Vietnam, General McMaster defined Trump foreign policy as “pragmatic realism” rather than isolationism.

“The consensus view has been that engagement overseas is an unmitigated good, regardless of the circumstances,” General McMaster said. “But there are problems that are maybe both intractable and of marginal interest to the American people, that do not justify investments of blood and treasure.”

Mr. Trump’s advisers argue that he has blown the cobwebs off decades of foreign policy doctrine and, as he approaches his first anniversary, that he has learned the realities of the world in which the United States must operate.

They point to gains in the Middle East, where Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is transforming Saudi Arabia; in Asia, where China is doing more to pressure a nuclear-armed North Korea; and even in Europe, where Mr. Trump’s criticism has prodded NATO members to ante up more for their defense.

The president takes credit for eradicating the caliphate built by the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, though he mainly accelerated a battle plan developed by President Barack Obama. His aides say he has reversed Mr. Obama’s passive approach to Iran, in part by disavowing the nuclear deal.

While Mr. Trump has held more than 130 meetings and phone calls with foreign leaders since taking office, he has left the rest of the world still puzzling over how to handle an American president unlike any other. Foreign leaders have tested a variety of techniques to deal with him, from shameless pandering to keeping a studied distance.

“Most foreign leaders are still trying to get a handle on him,” said Richard N. Haass, a top State Department official in the George W. Bush administration who is now the president of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Everywhere I go, I’m still getting asked, ‘Help us understand this president, help us navigate this situation.’

“We’re beginning to see countries take matters into their own hands. They’re hedging against America’s unreliability.”

Difficulties With Merkel

Few countries have struggled more to adapt to Mr. Trump than Germany, and few leaders seem less personally in sync with him than its leader, Chancellor Angela Merkel, the physicist turned politician. After she won a fourth term, their relationship took on weighty symbolism: the great disrupter versus the last defender of the liberal world order.

In one of their first phone calls, the chancellor explained to the president why Ukraine was a vital part of the trans-Atlantic relationship. Mr. Trump, officials recalled, had little idea of Ukraine’s importance, its history of being bullied by Russia or what the United States and its allies had done to try to push back Mr. Putin.

German officials were alarmed by Mr. Trump’s lack of knowledge, but they got even more rattled when White House aides called to complain afterward that Ms. Merkel had been condescending toward the new president. The Germans were determined not to repeat that diplomatic gaffe when Ms. Merkel met Mr. Trump at the White House in March.

At first, things again went badly. Mr. Trump did not shake Ms. Merkel’s hand in the Oval Office, despite the requests of the assembled photographers. (The president said he did not hear them.)

Later, he told Ms. Merkel that he wanted to negotiate a new bilateral trade agreement with Germany. The problem with this idea was that Germany, as a member of the European Union, could not negotiate its own agreement with the United States.

Rather than exposing Mr. Trump’s ignorance, Ms. Merkel said the United States could, of course, negotiate a bilateral agreement, but that it would have to be with Germany and the other 27 members of the union because Brussels conducted such negotiations on behalf of its members.

“So it could be bilateral?” Mr. Trump asked Ms. Merkel, according to several people in the room. The chancellor nodded.

“That’s great,” Mr. Trump replied before turning to his commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, and telling him, “Wilbur, we’ll negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Europe.”

Afterward, German officials expressed relief among themselves that Ms. Merkel had managed to get through the exchange without embarrassing the president or appearing to lecture him. Some White House officials, however, said they found the episode humiliating.

For Ms. Merkel and many other Germans, something elemental has changed across the Atlantic. “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands,” she said in May. “The times in which we can fully count on others — they are somewhat over.”

Concerns on Statecraft

Mr. Trump gets along better with Mr. Macron, a 40-year-old former investment banker and fellow political insurgent who ran for the French presidency as the anti-Trump. Despite disagreeing with him on trade, immigration and climate change, Mr. Macron figured out early how to appeal to the president: He invited him to a military parade.

But Mr. Macron has discovered that being buddies with Mr. Trump can also be complicated. During the Bastille Day visit, officials recalled, Mr. Trump told Mr. Macron he was rethinking his decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord.

That prompted French diplomats to make a flurry of excited calls to the White House for clarification the following week, only to find out that American policy had not changed. White House officials say that Mr. Trump was merely reiterating that the United States would be open to rejoining the pact on more advantageous terms.

But the exchange captures Mr. Trump’s lack of nuance or detail, which leaves him open to being misunderstood in complex international talks.

There have been fewer misunderstandings with autocrats. Mr. Xi of China and King Salman of Saudi Arabia both won over Mr. Trump by giving him a lavish welcome when he visited. The Saudi monarch projected his image on the side of a hotel; Mr. Xi reopened a long-dormant theater inside the Forbidden City to present Mr. Trump and his wife, Melania, an evening of Chinese opera.

“Did you see the show?” Mr. Trump asked reporters on Air Force One after he left Beijing in November. “They say in the history of people coming to China, there’s been nothing like that. And I believe it.”

Later, chatting with his aides, Mr. Trump continued to marvel at the respect Mr. Xi had shown him. It was a show of respect for the American people, not just for the president, one adviser replied gently.

Then, of course, there is the strange case of Mr. Putin. The president spoke of his warm telephone calls with the Russian president, even as he introduced a national security strategy that acknowledged Russia’s efforts to weaken democracies by meddling in their elections.

Mr. Trump has had a bumpier time with friends. He told off Prime Minister Theresa May on Twitter, after she objected to his exploitation of anti-Muslim propaganda from a far-right group in Britain.

“Statecraft has been singularly absent from the treatment of some of his allies, particularly the U.K.,” said Peter Westmacott, a former British ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Trump’s feuds with Ms. May and other British officials have left him in a strange position: feted in Beijing and Riyadh but barely welcome in London, which Mr. Trump is expected to visit early next year, despite warnings that he will face angry protesters.

Aides to Mr. Trump argue that his outreach to autocrats has been vindicated. When Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman visited the White House in March, the president lavished attention on him. Since then, they say, Saudi Arabia has reopened cinemas and allowed women to drive.

But critics say Mr. Trump gives more than he gets. By backing the 32-year-old crown prince so wholeheartedly, the president cemented his status as heir to the House of Saud. The crown prince has since jailed his rivals as Saudi Arabia pursued a deadly intervention in Yemen’s civil war.

Mr. Trump granted an enormous concession to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu when he announced this month that the United States would formally recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. But he did not ask anything of Mr. Netanyahu in return.

That showed another hallmark of Mr. Trump’s foreign policy: how much it is driven by domestic politics. In this case, he was fulfilling a campaign promise to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. While evangelicals and some hard-line, pro-Israel American Jews exulted, the Palestinians seethed — leaving Mr. Trump’s dreams of brokering a peace accord between them and the Israelis in tatters.

With China, Mr. Trump’s cultivation of Mr. Xi probably persuaded him to put more economic pressure on its neighbor North Korea over its provocative behavior. But even the president has acknowledged, as recently as Thursday, that it is not enough. And in return for Mr. Xi’s efforts, Mr. Trump has largely shelved his trade agenda vis-à-vis Beijing.

“It was a big mistake to draw that linkage,” said Robert B. Zoellick, who served as United States trade representative under Mr. Bush. “The Chinese are playing him, and it’s not just the Chinese. The world sees his narcissism and strokes his ego, diverting him from applying disciplined pressure.”

Mr. Trump’s protectionist instincts could prove the most damaging in the long term, Mr. Zoellick said. Trade, unlike security, springs from deeply rooted convictions. Mr. Trump believes that multilateral accords — like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, from which he pulled out in his first week in office — are stacked against America.

“He views trade as zero-sum, win-lose,” Mr. Zoellick said.

Globalist vs. Nationalist

For some of Mr. Trump’s advisers, the key to understanding his statecraft is not how he deals with Mr. Xi or Ms. Merkel, but the ideological contest over America’s role that plays out daily between the West Wing and agencies like the State Department and the Pentagon.

“There’s a chasm that can’t be bridged between the globalists and the nationalists,” said Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s former chief strategist and the leader of the nationalist wing, who has kept Mr. Trump’s ear since leaving the White House last summer.

On the globalist side of the debate stand General McMaster; Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson; and Mr. Trump’s chief economic adviser, Gary D. Cohn. On the nationalist side, in addition to Mr. Bannon, stand Stephen Miller, the president’s top domestic adviser, and Robert Lighthizer, the chief trade negotiator. On many days, the nationalist group includes the commander in chief himself.

The globalists have curbed some of Mr. Trump’s most radical impulses. He has yet to rip up the Iran nuclear deal, though he has refused to recertify it. He has reaffirmed the United States’ support for NATO, despite his objections about those members he believes are freeloading. And he has ordered thousands of additional American troops into Afghanistan, even after promising during the campaign to stay away from nation-building.

This has prompted a few Europeans to hope that “his bark is worse than his bite,” in the words of Mr. Westmacott.

Mr. Trump acknowledges that being in office has changed him. “My original instinct was to pull out,” he said of Afghanistan, “and, historically, I like following my instincts. But all my life I’ve heard that decisions are much different when you sit behind the desk in the Oval Office.”

Yet some things have not changed. Mr. Trump’s advisers have utterly failed to curb his Twitter posts, for example. Some gamely suggest that they create diplomatic openings. Others say they roll with the punches when he labels Mr. Kim of North Korea “Little Rocket Man.” For Mr. Tillerson, however, the tweets have severely tarnished his credibility in foreign capitals.

“All of them know they still can’t control the thunderbolt from on high,” said John D. Negroponte, who served as the director of national intelligence for Mr. Bush.

The tweets highlight that Mr. Trump still holds a radically different view of the United States’ role in the world than most of his predecessors. His advisers point to a revealing meeting at the Pentagon on July 20, when Mr. Mattis, Mr. Tillerson and Mr. Cohn walked the president through the country’s trade and security obligations around the world.

The group convened in the secure conference room of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a storied inner sanctum known as the tank. Mr. Mattis led off the session by declaring that “the greatest thing the ‘greatest generation’ left us was the rules-based postwar international order,” according to a person who was in the room.

After listening for about 50 minutes, this person said, Mr. Trump had heard enough. He began peppering Mr. Mattis and Mr. Tillerson with questions about who pays for NATO and the terms of the free trade agreements with South Korea and other countries.

The postwar international order, the president of the United States declared, is “not working at all.”

 

 

 

 

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What Japan can teach us about the future of nationalism

Robert Hellyer and David Leheny, Jan 3, 2018

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/made-by-history/wp/2018/01/03/what-japan-can-teach-us-about-the-future-of-the-nationalism/?sw_bypass=true&utm_term=.5d77f56571b1

accessed January 4, 2018

今年是明治維新150週年。但是如何紀念,如何說明要紀念,日本人拿不定主意。
●這篇由兩位歷史教授所寫的回顧,冷靜的剖析主流說法下的另類史實。非常推薦。

林中斌 2018.1.4

 

On Jan. 3, 1868, a cadre of samurai staged a coup at the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, setting Japan on a course to become Asia’s first nation-state. Japanese are not widely commemorating the event today, even though the coup, which began the dramatic transformation of the Meiji Restoration, should rank in global history alongside Bastille Day or July Fourth as a point of national origin.

Stopping to consider this anniversary’s uncelebrated relevance highlights not only the remarkable course of national creation in Japan but also, more importantly, the tenacity of the modernizing nation-state, and its accompanying zealous commitments to sovereignty, as a global political form that continues to influence geopolitics today.

The samurai who staged the coup that day toppled the nearly three-century-old Tokugawa regime. Their alliance of feudal domains from western Japan then went on to defeat an ill-organized resistance in a brief civil war. Upon their victory, they led a new government with the young Emperor Meiji at its head.

Initially, this government formed around a ruling oligarchy that “restored” the emperor’s political role, ultimately signaling a desire to govern by reviving imperial political structures employed in an ideal, ancient past.

But they soon changed course, sensing the need for even bolder change, given the rising tide of European imperialism that many feared might make Japan a European colony. A group of leaders embarked on a nearly two-year diplomatic mission to Europe and the United States to learn firsthand about the ascendant West. Seeing the industrial and military power contained in the modern nation-state, they returned keen to implement that model at home.

With breathtaking speed, the oligarchs initiated reforms that dismantled the politically diffuse feudal state in which samurai lords ruled over semi-independent domains and pledged personal loyalty to the Tokugawa shogun. Drawing inspiration from Western political structures, the leaders eliminated the domains, reorganizing Japan into regional administrative units headed by governors appointed by the new central government. They also eliminated the samurai class, who had served as the administrators of the domain governments, and instead developed an extensive central bureaucracy that acted in the name of Meiji, whose portrait was placed in schools.

 

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自由時報登載中國進步新聞

 

自由時報2017.12.29台灣獨家登載此項中國進步的新聞。同時,那一國際版面涵蓋台灣各報中最多的國際新聞內容。

林中斌 2018.1.3

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U.S. No Longer a Global Force for Good

Susan Rice New York Times, December 20, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/20/opinion/susan-rice-america-global-strategy.html

accessed December 21, 2017

 

美國前國家安全顧問(相當於台灣國家安全會秘書長)Susan Rice在紐約時報投書寫道:

●中國沒有非法佔領它的鄰居。它是美國的競爭者(Competitor),不是美國的對手(Opponent)。

●俄羅斯是美國的對手。它佔領過喬治亞和烏克蘭。

  President Trump’s National Security Strategy marks a dramatic departure from the plans of his Republican and Democratic predecessors, painting a dark, almost dystopian portrait of an “extraordinarily dangerous” world characterized by hostile states and lurking threats. There is scant mention of America’s unrivaled political, military, technological and economic strength, or the opportunities to expand prosperity, freedom and security through principled leadership — the foundation of American foreign policy since World War II.

  In Mr. Trump’s estimation, we live in a world where America wins only at others’ expense. There is no common good, no international community, no universal values, only American values. America is no longer “a global force for good,” as in President Obama’s last strategy, or a “shining city on a hill,” as in President Reagan’s vision. The new strategy enshrines a zero-sum mentality: “Protecting American interests requires that we compete continuously within and across these contests, which are being played out in regions around the world.” This is the hallmark of Mr. Trump’s nationalistic, black-and-white “America First” strategy.

  But the world is actually gray, and Mr. Trump’s strategy struggles to draw nuanced distinctions. Throughout, China and Russia are conflated and equated as parallel adversaries. In fact, China is a competitor, not an avowed opponent, and has not illegally occupied its neighbors. Russia, as the strategy allows, aggressively opposes NATO, the European Union, Western values and American global leadership. It brazenly seized Georgian and Ukrainian territory and killed thousands of innocents to save a dictator in Syria. Russia is our adversary, yet Mr. Trump’s strategy stubbornly refuses to acknowledge its most hostile act: directly interfering in the 2016 presidential election to advantage Mr. Trump himself.

  On China and Russia, I suspect the White House realists, to escape the embarrassment of a strategy that ignored Russia’s hostile behavior, agreed to lump China with Russia and almost always mention China first, to placate their nationalist colleagues who hate China but admire Russia. The result is a flawed analysis that may actually drive Russia and China closer together.

  In several respects, including nuclear weapons and arms control, weapons of mass destruction, counterterrorism, intelligence, cyberthreats, space policy, unfair trade practices and theft of intellectual property, the strategy falls within the bipartisan mainstream of United States national security policy, differing little from that of a more traditional Republican president. In other areas, it helpfully corrects this administration’s wavering course, as in its unequivocal embrace of United States allies and partners and reaffirmation of our Article V commitment to defend NATO. The strategy recognizes the threat from pandemics and biohazards and the importance of strengthening global health security. And it maintains at least a nominal commitment to women’s empowerment and providing generous humanitarian assistance.

  But the nationalists around him succeeded in enshrining Mr. Trump’s harsh anti-immigration policies, from the border wall to ending family preferences and limiting refugee admissions. They reprised their paean to bilateral over multi-nation trade agreements and trumpeted the abrogation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would help check China’s economic and strategic expansionism in Asia. The result is an insular, ideological treatment of our complex world, substantially unimpaired by facts and dismissive of United States interests.

  The plan also glaringly omits many traditional American priorities. It fails to mention the words “human rights” or “extreme poverty”; there is no talk of higher education, combating H.I.V.-AIDS or seeking a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Absent, too, is any discussion of people under 30 (who make up over 50 percent of the world’s population), of civil society or of the value of promoting democracy and universal rights. Gone is “climate change” and its threat to American national security. Neither is there any expression of concern for the rights of the oppressed, especially L.G.B.T. people. These omissions undercut global perceptions of American leadership; worse, they hinder our ability to rally the world to our cause when we blithely dismiss the aspirations of others.

  The plan also contains some true howlers. It heralds diplomacy, yet Mr. Trump and his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, have starved the State Department of resources, talent and relevance. The strategy lauds the “free press,” yet Mr. Trump routinely trashes our most respected news outlets as “fake news,” threatening their personnel and operations. And it claims the United States “rejects bigotry and oppression and seeks a future built on our values as one American people”; yet the president has denigrated women, used race-baiting language and been hesitant to criticize anti-Semitic, neo-Nazi extremists. One wonders how seriously to take a document that so starkly diverges from the president’s own words and deeds.

  These contradictions matter, as does the administration’s enthusiastic embrace of a self-serving, confrontational vision of the world. National security strategies do not always leave an enduring legacy, but they are important articulations of an administration’s priorities — signposts to a world that cares deeply about America’s ambitions and interests.

  The United States’s strength has long rested not only on our unmatched military and economy, but also on the power of our ideals. Relinquishing the nation’s moral authority in these difficult times will only embolden rivals and weaken ourselves. It will make a mockery of the very idea of America first.

 

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Some People Want Nothing to Do with Retirement

Claudia Dreifus New York Times, December 16, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/16/business/asked-about-retiring-they-have-a-simple-answer-why.html

accessed December 21, 2017

Jack Weinstein 5:30起床運動。

●7點,汽車接他去紐約市布魯克林Cadman Plaza。他和同僚喝咖非閒話生活。

●9點,他審理案件,判決被告。

●下午,他審判案件。

●他這一切無什特別。只是,他今年96歲。

林中斌摘譯 2017.12.29

  On most mornings, Jack B. Weinstein rises at 5:30 to exercise.

  At 7, a car takes him from his home in Great Neck to Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, where he is a senior Federal District Court judge for the Eastern District of New York.

  Once at the courthouse, Judge Weinstein has coffee and gossips with colleagues. By 9, he’s at work hearing motions, reviewing filings, sentencing defendants. In the afternoon, he tries cases.

  None of that is so unusual. But Judge Weinstein is 96 — decades past the age when most Americans choose to stop working.

  “Retire? I’ve never thought of retiring,” he declares. Judge Weinstein was first appointed to the bench more than 50 years ago and is still in the thick of hot-button issues in the courts. “I’m a better judge, in some respects, than when I was younger. I don’t remember names. But I listen more. And I’m more compassionate. I see things from more angles. If you are doing interesting work, you want to continue.”

  Judge Weinstein is one of the more than 1.5 million Americans over the age of 75, who are still in the paid work force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

  While the study does not list their specific jobs, many work at occupations in which skill and brainpower count more than brawn and endurance. Some are self-employed and aren’t subject to mandatory retirement rules. Others are stars in their fields — no one has ever suggested that Warren Buffett, 87, quit investing. And there are others, a growing cohort, who remain at their posts because of financial necessity.

  “The crash of 2008, debt burdens, decreasing income replacement rates and the demise of employer pensions are a few of the trends” that have pushed the number of non-retirees to record levels, said Susan K. Weinstock, vice president for financial resilience at AARP.

  Ms. Weinstock said she expected that this trend would continue into the next decade. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the labor force participation rate for those 75 and older rose from 6.4 percent in 2006 to 8.4 percent in 2016 and is likely to reach 10.8 percent by 2026.

  For Adolfo Calovini, 82, a New York City high school teacher, the need to earn income is part of his motivation.

  Mr. Calovini married late in life and has a son, 14, and a daughter, 20. The approximately $110,000 annual salary he earns as an English as a Second Language instructor at Park West High School in Manhattan is a necessity. For additional income, he teaches in the summer.

  His job isn’t easy — nor is his daily commute from New Hyde Park on Long Island. At school, his assignment is to instruct teenagers from countries including Haiti and Mexico in English literature and composition and prepare them for college. Each day, he teaches four classes — and then spends two hours on individual coaching.

  As a self-taught linguist who can converse in six languages, Mr. Calovini has skills that make him an asset to his school. When an immigrant teen registers at Park West, Mr. Calovini is usually able to connect with the student in his or her native tongue.

  “I’m an immigrant myself,” the Italian-born teacher said. “In class, I try to make them understand that they are as good as anyone else and have a good life if they’ll improve their English. I say, ‘If I can teach myself all these languages, you can learn English and get into college!’”

 

  Occasionally, one of Mr. Calovini’s younger colleagues will ask if he’s ready to retire.

  He shakes his head. “To me, teaching is about life. This is what I do. I can’t see a time when I wouldn’t.”

  The Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist Eric R. Kandel agrees — he works for the sheer joy of it.

  At 88, Dr. Kandel heads his own research laboratory at Columbia University. “I like what I do,” he said. “Keeping engaged keeps you intellectually alive. I wouldn’t be surprised if it enhanced longevity.”

  Every day, Dr. Kandel interacts with much younger scientists, supervising their investigations, teaching and mentoring them. At the laboratory, he says, “people don’t ever speak to me about my age. I think they are surprised that I am 88.”

  As Dr. Kandel has grown older, his research has focused on the neuroscience of aging.

  In one project, he’s been trying to determine if aged-related memory loss might be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease. “We have very compelling evidence that it is an independent entity,” he said.

  Dr. Kandel, a trained psychiatrist, offers this advice to other non-retirees: “If you are healthy and enjoy your work, continue. At the very least, it gives you additional income. Even if you don’t need it, the money can be for your kids and grandchildren.”

  Dr. Laura Popper, 71, a Manhattan pediatrician, works because her profession is central to her identity.

  “I wanted to be a doctor since I was 4 — why would I give that up?” she said. “If you’re a surgeon and you reach a certain age, you have to stop. With pediatricians, as long as you have your marbles, there’s no reason to.”

  In fact, there’s something about Dr. Popper’s specialization — tending to the health of children — that invigorates her.

  “The wonderful thing about pediatrics,” she said, “is that it’s always about renewal and the future. I hang out with babies, toddlers, young parents and they are always looking forward. Getting old is about a shrinking future, but I don’t spend my days thinking about that because I’m in a different place.”

  Dr. Popper has been able to continue well beyond the age when most of her peers have retired, partly because she’s self-employed. Dr. Popper is the co-owner of her medical practice, and owns her office space. That autonomy gives her the freedom to adjust her working conditions when necessary.

  Over time she’s allowed her patient load to contract. Instead of examining 35 patients in a day, she now sees somewhere between 10 and 20. Her practice partner, who is 25 years younger, has taken up the slack.

  Still, even with the lighter load, Popper puts in a full week, phoning patients in the evenings and being on call for emergencies one weekend a month.

  All of that earns her about $200,000 a year, which, she said, was “less than what it used to be. But my kids are grown. I don’t need as much.”

  Dr. Popper’s husband of 46 years, Edward Shain, 73, retired from his sales and marketing consultancy three years ago. He spends joyful hours exercising their Doberman pinscher, Elizabeth Bennett, in Central Park and blogging. She claims he’d like her to join him.

  However, whenever he raises the subject, “I tell him, ‘You’d have to take me to a psychiatric hospital the next day.’ There’s no part of me that wants to retire. If you have something you love, there’s nothing else.”

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From Diva to Movie Star at 90

Anthony Tommasini New York Times, December 22, 2017

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/22/arts/music/leontyne-price-met-opera.html

accessed December 22, 2017

●美國著名黑人歌劇女高音Leontyne PriceMarian Anderson的傳人

Marian Anderson是首位進入卡內基演奏廳的黑人演唱家

●今年Leontyne PriceMetropolitan Opera House首演名作曲家Samuel Barber為他寫的歌劇“Antony and Cleopatra”(埃及豔后)

Leontyne Price今年90歲

林中斌摘譯 2017.12.29

 

  COLUMBIA, Md. — The soprano Leontyne Price, who retired from singing 20 years ago, assumed that the triumphs of her illustrious career were behind her. Not so. At 90, Ms. Price has become an unlikely movie star.

  She may not quite be in line for a spot on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. But again and again, Ms. Price steals Susan Froemke’s new documentary, “The Opera House,” which tells the complex, tense saga of the building and inauguration, in 1966, of the Metropolitan Opera House at Lincoln Center.

  The “New Met” opened with the lavish premiere of Samuel Barber’s “Antony and Cleopatra,” tailored to Ms. Price’s radiant voice and prima donna grandeur. And she dominates the documentary, both in footage from the ’60s and in interview segments filmed just before her 90th birthday, in which Ms. Price recounts the opening night with impressive detail and droll humor, along with charming (and amply justified) self-regard.

  “I really sang like an angel,” she recalls at one point. “You just want to kiss yourself, you sound so great.”

  These delightful sequences make the movie: In an interview earlier this year about her documentary, Ms. Froemke said that when her interview with Ms. Price ended, she was so elated that she texted her colleagues: “We have a film now.”

  But does Ms. Price like the results?

  “Are you kidding?” Ms. Price said during a December interview in the homey apartment here, where she has lived for several years. “I’m having it put in my casket. It was so exciting for me to go back and remember all the things that happened that night.”

  She said she considers the Met “the temple of grand opera,” so “to be there from the very beginning was a very great honor.”

 

  On opening night, Ms. Price recalled in the interview, she was swept up in thoughts about the unlikely path she had traveled, from her birth to humble parents in a small Mississippi town in the segregated South — her mother was a midwife and her father worked in a sawmill — to her momentous Met debut in 1961 singing Leonora in Verdi’s “Il Trovatore,” to the 1966 theater opening in a made-to-order grand opera.

  “It left me speechless,” she said.

  Actually, in the film — which will be screened next month across Canada and the United States, including at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center and several others in New York on Jan. 13 and 17 — Ms. Price hardly comes across as speechless. She volubly recounts the mishaps that plagued Franco Zeffirelli’s monumental staging. And she was anything but searching for words during our recent interview, greeting me at the door with a diva-style vocal flourish.

  She sings every day, she said proudly. “It’s practically the only thing in me that still works,” she added — at least without Bengay, athletic creams or Emu oil.

  Ms. Price moved from New York to Maryland at the urging of her younger brother, George B. Price, a retired Army general whose large family lives mostly in the region. Mr. Price became his sister’s manager after she retired from opera in 1985, singing a final Met performance of Verdi’s “Aida,” and began a final phase of concert work, which lasted 12 years.

  “I’m doing so good here, thanks to my brother and the kids,” she said. “I didn’t think I could be this happy without singing, without being center stage.”

  She certainly relished her time in the spotlight. On opening night in 1966, Rudolf Bing, the Met’s general manager, came backstage to wish her good luck.

  “I told him, ‘I’m about to scream — not sing — to scream with happiness,’” Ms. Price recalled. That afternoon, she had learned that radio stations in and around her hometown, Laurel, Miss., had been linked into the Met’s radio network and would carry “Antony and Cleopatra” live.

  This represented a titanic shift from a painful event a decade earlier. NBC Opera Theater, a TV series that broadcast live opera stagings, had chosen Ms. Price to sing the title role of Puccini’s “Tosca” in 1955. This was “a breakthrough for me,” she said, before adding, almost as an aside, “My state didn’t carry it.” Indeed, many NBC affiliates in the South refused to show a program featuring a black Tosca and her white lover.

  But racism was a reality for her from birth. When she was 9, her mother, celebrated for her singing in church, took the young Leontyne on a bus trip to Jackson, Miss., to hear the great contralto Marian Anderson in recital.

  “She came out in a white satin gown, so majestic,” Ms. Price said. “And opened her mouth, and I thought, ‘This is it, mama. This is what I’m going to be.’”

  Even though it was a concert by a distinguished black artist, the hall was segregated; Ms. Price and her mother sat in the “colored” section. Though just a child, she said she put this irony out of her mind. But even as Ms. Price argued that art “has no color,” she acknowledged that artists, of course, have origins and identities.

  “One of the things about this extraordinary instrument that I have is the blackness in it, the natural flavor,” Ms. Price said. “It’s something extra.”

  And something particularly appropriate, she added, when singing spirituals, which she called “black heartbeat music.” She speaks and sings with a Southern accent, she said, which gave her spirituals “even more of me.”

  Barber, like so many, was captivated by her. At the recommendation of Florence Page Kimball, Ms. Price’s beloved voice teacher at the Juilliard School, he chose the young soprano, then 26, to give the premiere of his “Hermit Songs” in 1953. He wrote Cleopatra “for the timbre, the shadings — everything about my voice, which is not too shabby, actually,” Ms. Price said.

  She still won’t hear a word against “Antony and Cleopatra,” though she knows how tough the initial reviews were. Most critics acknowledged the score’s beautiful moments, especially Cleopatra’s death scene, in which the character’s plaintive lyrical lines are capped by a chilling choral threnody. Still, whole stretches of the opera came across as splashy and grandiose, an impression reinforced by Mr. Zeffirelli’s overblown production. Barber revised the score significantly for a 1975 revival at Juilliard and that version has been slowly gaining attention.

  He also adapted a concert suite of Cleopatra’s arias for Ms. Price. “I sang it all over the world, and I sang the hell out of it,” Ms. Price said. “I don’t think the opera was a failure. Finally — not totally — in time, Sam accepted that it’s great music.”

  She hopes the film will call attention to the Met and Barber’s opera, and to his works more generally.

  She spoke at length about his “Knoxville: Summer of 1915” for voice and orchestra, a wistfully beautiful musical setting of a James Agee text, with its description of a child’s memories of an evening at home. (“On the rough wet grass of the backyard my father and mother have spread quilts.”)

  That poem “is like painting a picture of my hometown,” Ms. Price said, “and that’s the way I sang it.”

  She recorded it in the summer of 1968, after the death of her father. While she performed the music in the studio, she “could see the lawn chairs made by my daddy,” she recalled. “He never finished the ninth grade, and he could fix anything, which was fabulous.”

  Then she started singing the pensive child’s final line about the parents who provide so much love, “but will not ever tell me who I am.”

  At first Ms. Price faltered. Then she shifted to a higher key and sang the phrase tenderly, right to me.

 

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北京仍孤立於東亞?

accessed October 25, 2017

★此篇拙作共1,100字花3天2017.12.21-23寫成寄給聯合報。之後,再寄修成稿3次2017.12.23-24。
★此篇參考共61項資料(請見所附圖2),包括53份剪報掃描檔,和8份下載文字資料。
★拙作文字檔貼在下方。另有兩篇英文資料附在拙作下方:
-- Richard Heydarian, "China's Regional Isolation" Al Jazeera November 23, 2015
-- "China Scores Diplomatic Coup in Sea Row" Agence France-Presse August 7, 2017

敬請賜教。
林中斌 2017.12.25

北京仍孤立於東亞?
林中斌
名人堂稿件
日期:20171223 本文字數:1100 目標字數:1100

「中國在東亞被孤立…鄰居紛紛倒向美國尋求保護。」二○一五年十一月,菲律賓學者R.Heydarian投書半島電台寫道。
兩年後的今日,情況如何? 
●日本:鮮明抗中的首相安倍今年十一月,翻轉原來抵制態度,表示願意參與中國「一帶一路」建設,並力邀習近平明年訪日。當月底,派二百五十人的「聯合訪華團」擴大經濟交流。十二月四日,他稱中日對「一帶一路」可「大力合作」。
●新加坡:總理李顯龍九月下旬選擇先訪中再訪美,修補去年因李力挺不利北京的「南海仲裁案」而惡化的中新關係。早先六月,李一改之前冷淡態度,宣佈支持「一帶一路」。
●印度:今年六月,中印雙方軍隊於邊境洞朗地區開始對峙,八月結束。總理莫迪於九月三日上午,任命西塔拉曼女士為國防部長,取代號稱能打兩個半戰爭的前任,隨後於傍晚趕抵廈門參加習近平主持的「金磚五國峰會」。西塔拉曼十月七日前赴邊境,向中國軍隊合什問候並友好互動。八月底,印度邊防部隊開始要求士兵學會五、六十句中文,以避免雙方誤會並解決對抗。
●菲律賓:菲國為美國軍事同盟。其總統杜特蒂一六年六月底就任後,擱置同年七月公佈不利北京的「南海仲裁案」。這是他前任要求國際法庭審理的。他公開罵過美總統歐巴馬和美大使,已經兩次訪中。同年十一月,美國停售菲反恐用的步槍。他轉向中、俄求助。北京捐贈他兩批射程一公里的狙擊步槍,一七年五月他賴以收復伊斯蘭叛軍控制的菲國南部。同年二月,他要求中國軍艦協助打擊菲南部海盜,曾禁美國使用菲國港口,直到七月都不派駐美大使。
●緬甸:一一年,歐巴馬來訪,是歷史上首位訪緬的美國總統。美緬關係上升,中緬關係下降。同年,緬甸取消中國密松水壩計畫。西方力挺的民主鬥士昂山蘇姬,其政黨一五年贏得大選。她次年出任國務資政,相當於國家元首。之後,情形逆轉。至今她已兩次訪中,一次取消華府邀請。密松水壩計畫一六年恢復。一七年,她同意中國建造皎漂港,駐點印度洋。同年,她支持軍方鎮壓羅辛亞人民反抗,被美國譴責。而中國力挺她,並協助斡旋孟加拉協助解決問題。她更親中遠美。
●其他東協國家:一七年八月初,東盟外長會議達成「南海行為準則」架構。前述R. Heydarian認為:「這是中國外交大勝利。」英國南海專家B. Hayton表示:比起○二年的決議,這架構的文字有利中國甚多。對東協,北京的確下功夫。美國盟友泰國向它買潛艇。它幫印尼造高鐵。它也幫馬來西亞造高鐵,花四十億元美金承建皇京港。
●斯里蘭卡:本月初,漢班托港經營權移交中國。年初,新總理反對親中前總理所安排之本計劃,終於還是接受。
以上意料外變化原因為何?
●川普總統的「美國(國內)優先」政策令東亞國家不敢放心。
●北京的「支票外交」搭配「鬥而不破」的手段奏效。
東亞局勢板塊移動,台灣能不未雨綢繆?

作者為前華府喬治大學外交學院講座教授,曾任國防部副部長,甫發表新書《撥雲見日:破解台美中三方困局》

 

 

 

China's regional isolation
http://www.aljazeera.com/…/china-regional-isolation-1511221…accessed Dec. 20, 2017
ASEAN summit saw member countries pushing for a legally binding 'code of conduct' in the South China Sea as a way to constraint China's territorial assertiveness in the area, writes Heydarian [AP]
On the surface, China looks nothing short of an Asian juggernaut. It boasts Asia's biggest economy, having eclipsed Japan in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, and is poised to become the world's biggest in the near future.
It is already the world's largest trading power, having overtaken the United States in 2013. And within a relatively short period, China has emerged as a leading investor, particularly in the realm of infrastructure development, across the global south and beyond.
Unlike Japan, China is a comprehensive power, which isn't bedevilled by constitutional restrictions on the development of its offensive military capabilities. Flushed with cash and ambition, China has rapidly caught up with leading military powers, now boasting two operational fifth-generation jet fighters, an aircraft carrier, and sophisticated asymmetrical area-denial/anti-access (A2/AD) capabilities.

ASEAN summit leaders meet in Kuala Lumpur
No wonder then, that leading naval experts such as James Holmes have described China as "a near-peer [military] competitor vis-a-vis the United States" in East Asia.
And yet, one can't escape the impression that China is suffering increasing diplomatic isolation due to its aggressive manoeuvres across contested waters such as the South China Sea.
Not to mention that China's recent economic troubles, ranging from massive stock market crashes to declining manufacturing exports, have chipped away at its long-held image as a beacon of capitalist success.
Conscious of growing worries over China's economic health, Chinese President Xi Jinping, in his keynote speech during the APEC summit, was adamant that his country's economy is strong, resilient, and dynamic.
All of a sudden, China has been on the diplomatic back foot, while the US and its allies have been confidently pushing for greater regional unity to ensure freedom of navigation and maritime security in the Asia-Pacific region.
The elephant in the room
China's weakened regional position was evident during the recently concluded Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summits.
Without a doubt, China is expected to stand its ground and further consolidate its territorial claims in adjacent waters. But it is also clear that Beijing is no longer seen as a fully benign, peacefully rising power by many of its neighbours.

Confronting criticism over its territorial assertiveness in adjacent waters, China desperately sought to eliminate any multilateral discussion of the South China Sea disputes.
Fearful that the Philippines, this year's APEC host and China's rival claimant state, would use the event to diplomatically confront Beijing, Xi refused to confirm his participation until the 11th hour, and making it conditional on the host's agreement to brush aside the maritime disputes during the APEC summit.
Before Xi's highly anticipated visit, China dispatched Foreign Minister Wang Yi to Manila to warn the Philippines against embarrassing his boss. In effect, Beijing tried to influence the summit's agenda so that no dark shadow would be cast on its image.
To secure Xi's participation, and to bolster its credentials as a magnanimous host, Manila promised not to mention the disputes in the main agenda of APEC, and extended a warm welcome to the Chinese leader.
Allies chip-in
After all, Xi's visit would mark his first to the Southeast Asian country, potentially paving the way for the resuscitation of long-frozen high-level contacts between the two countries. As the leader of the second biggest economy in the Asia-Pacific region, Xi's presence was considered as essential to a successful APEC summit.
Though China managed to block any discussion of the disputes in the APEC's main statements, the Philippines did bring the issue to the fore in its bilateral engagements on the sidelines of the summit.
________________________________________
Shortly after landing in Manila, US President Barack Obama made a highly symbolic visit to the Philippines' flagship naval vessel BRP Gregorio del Pilar. He reiterated the United States' "ironclad commitment" to its alliance with the Philippines, pledging to donate two vessels and an increase in overall maritime security assistance to the country.
Both countries emphasised the centrality of freedom of navigation to regional security. For the US and its allies, China's massive reclamation activities and increased military presence across the South China Sea poses threats to freedom of navigation in one of the world's most important sea lines of communications.
Regional pushback
Vietnam, another maritime rival of China, also signed a strategic partnership agreement with the Philippines, which deepens diplomatic, legal, and naval cooperation between the two Southeast Asian countries against China. The new agreement was meant to signal to Beijing that its rivals in the South China Sea were forming a counter-alliance.
The Philippines signed a new military deal with Japan as well, another regional power that has been perturbed by China's maritime assertiveness. Under the latest deal, the Philippines is expected to benefit from greater military aid from and more regular joint naval exercises with Tokyo.
________________________________________
________________________________________
Other regional powers such as Australia, South Korea and even Russia, offered greater military assistance to the Philippines, which has been caught in a precarious maritime dispute with China.
Earlier this month, an anxious China went so far as sabotaging a high-level talk among regional defence ministers, the ASEAN Defence Minister Meeting-Plus, by refusing to sign up to a joint statement that would have covered the South China Sea disputes.

Yet, to China's dismay, the recently concluded ASEAN summit saw Southeast Asian foreign ministers pushing for a legally binding "code of conduct" in the South China Sea as a way to constraint China's territorial assertiveness in the area.
Without a doubt, China is expected to stand its ground and further consolidate its territorial claims in adjacent waters. But it is also clear that Beijing is no longer seen as a fully benign, peacefully rising power by many of its neighbours, who have increasingly gravitated towards the US as the supposed guarantor of regional security in Asia. (CPL
Ironically, the trend has overturned by December 2017)
Richard Javad Heydarian is a specialist in Asian geopolitical/economic affairs and author of Asia's New Battlefield: US, China, and the Struggle for Western Pacific.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA

China scores diplomatic coup in sea row
Agence France-Presse / 07:07 AM August 07, 2017

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/…/china-scores-diplomatic-… accessed December 22, 2017

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi speaks during a press conference on the sidelines of the 50th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) regional security forum in Manila on August 6, 2017. AFP
China on Sunday scored a diplomatic coup in its campaign to weaken regional resistance against its sweeping claims to the South China Sea when Southeast Asian nations issued a diluted statement on the dispute and agreed to Beijing’s terms on talks.
After two days of tense meetings on the dispute in the Philippine capital, foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) issued a joint communique that diplomats involved said was carefully worded to avoid angering China.
The release of the statement came shortly after the ministers met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and agreed on a framework for conducting negotiations on the decades-long row that included key clauses advocated by China.
“This is an important outcome of our joint effort,” Wang told reporters as he celebrated the agreement.
China claims nearly all of the strategically vital sea, through which $5 trillion in annual shipping trade passes and is believed to sit atop vast oil and gas deposits.
Its sweeping claims overlap with those of Asean members Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei, as well as Taiwan.
China has dramatically expanded its presence in the contested areas in recent years by building giant artificial islands that could be used as military bases, raising concerns it will eventually establish de facto control over the waters.

Duterte thanks China again for its help during 5-month Marawi siege
In what two diplomats involved said was another victory for Beijing on Sunday, Asean members declined to say in their joint statement that the hoped-for code of conduct with China be “legally binding”.
Vietnam, the most determined critic of China on the issue, had insisted during two days of negotiations that Asean insist the code be legally binding, arguing otherwise it would be meaningless.
The Asean ministers failed to release the joint statement as expected after meeting on Saturday because of their differences on the sea issue, with Vietnam pushing for tougher language and Cambodia lobbying hard for China.
“Vietnam is adamant, and China is effectively using Cambodia to champion its interests,” one diplomat told AFP on Sunday as negotiations extended into overtime.
Consensus struggle
Tensions over the sea have long vexed Asean, which operates on a consensus basis but has had to balance the interests of rival claimants and those more aligned to China.
Critics of China have accused it of trying to divide Asean with strong-armed tactics and checkbook diplomacy, enticing smaller countries in the bloc such as Cambodia and Laos to support it.
The Philippines, under previous president Benigno Aquino, had been one of the most vocal critics of China and filed a case before a UN-backed tribunal.
The tribunal last year ruled China’s sweeping claims to the sea had no legal basis.
But China, despite being a signatory to the UN’s Convention on the Law of the Sea, ignored the ruling.
The Philippines, under new President Rodrigo Duterte, decided to play down the verdict in favour of pursuing warmer ties with Beijing. This in turn led to offers of billions of dollars in investments or aid from China.
“It’s clear that China’s pressure on individual Asean governments has paid off,” Bill Hayton, a South China Sea expert and associate fellow with the Asia Program at Chatham House in London, told AFP.
Hayton and other analysts said the agreement on a framework for talks on Sunday came 15 years after a similar document was signed committing the parties to begin negotiations.
The 2002 document was more strongly worded against China.
China used those 15 years to cement its claims, while continuing to get Asean to issue ever-weaker statements of opposition, according to the analysts.
“It would appear China has never lost in terms of seeing the language of Asean forum statements being toned down,” Ei Sun Oh, adjunct senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told AFP.
Philippine academic and security analyst Richard Heydarian expressed stronger sentiments as he summarized Sunday’s developments: “Overall it’s a slam dunk diplomatic victory for China”. CBB

 

 

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Christmas Party 2017. 一七聖誕趴。
Record-breaking 40 attendants.

 

 

 

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China’s PLA Air Force Raises Pressure on Taiwan

Jens Kastner Asiasentinel, December 12, 2017

https://www.asiasentinel.com/politics/china-pla-air-force-pressure-taiwan/

accessed December 13, 2017

●細膩的觀察和分析。文中指出:
--原來支持希拉蕊的"民進黨左翼"媒體現在批評川普,而民進黨政府國防花費又不足3%使川普不悅。此發展置蔡英文政府於兩難的 困境。因為蔡政府需要川普支持台灣對抗北京。

林中斌 2017.12.13

 

 

 

  In the latest of an increasing number of close calls, the Chinese pilot of a H-6K strategic bomber set off alarms on Taiwan’s air defense identification zone off the island’s southern coast on Dec. 7, buzzing a scrambled Taiwanese F-16 fighter jet and radioing the pilot to get lost.

  The PLA Air Force has increased its incursions into Taiwan’s air defense zone in the second half of this year, with the Taiwanese military confirming five such forays in less than two months since the conclusion of China’s 19th Communist Party Congress in late October, where President Xi Jinping in his opening speech offered what was called by the Foreign Policy Research Institute an “exercise in chest thumping and minor sabre rattling over Taiwan.”

  Prior to the Dec. 7 snub, intercepted by a Taiwanese amateur radio operator and published by Taiwan’s Apple Daily, mid-air encounters between the two sides had been relatively polite in tone, with the Chinese pilots often addressing the Taiwanese as “compatriots” despite serious political tensions.

  The incident is regarded on the island as the latest indicator that the cross-strait military relation is entering a new and frightening era.

  “PLA Air Force flights through the Miyako Strait and down the east side of Taiwan are serious war preparation exercises, and operations on the east side of Taiwan are required in order to impose an air and naval blockade that would precede an invasion,” said Rick Fisher, a cross-strait military expert at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, in an interview with Asia Sentinel.

 

  “It is very necessary for Taiwan to continually challenge such PLA exercises to demonstrate resolve and to publicize China’s essential hostility to a free Taiwan,” he added.

  It is not only the changing tone and the increased frequency of PLA drills that alarm the Taiwanese but also way these drills are conducted.

  Signaling that things are turning much more serious, Ilyushin Il-78 aerial refueling planes were recently added to the formations, allowing the PLA’s Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets to escort PLA bombers as far as to Hawaii.

  Another noteworthy change is that the formations have now begun taking off from further away in the Chinese hinterland, making them more difficult to detect by Taiwan’s early warning systems.

  The increased airborne threat is magnified by a growing seaborne one, as reflected by China’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, and its accompanying convoy in late 2016 for the first time completing a voyage circling Taiwan and continuing to operate frequently near the island.

  According to Chen Ching-Chang, a Taiwan-born political scientist at Japan’s Ryukoku University, the PLA’s aircraft still cannot stay in eastern Taiwan’s air space for too long, and it remains risky for the aircraft carrier Liaoning to operate beyond the first-island chain. The PLA’s activities are as much about getting familiar with the area as about applying pressure on the administration of Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), which still refuses to accept the “One China” principle.

  “The fact that these activities to surround Taiwan stopped during the 19th Party Congress and the APEC and East Asia Summit meetings, which overlapped with [US President] Trump’s trip to Asia, means that they were driven more by the political motive of teaching Taipei a lesson than by the need of regular training,” Chen said.

  He added that Japan, whose Self-Defense Forces have from April 2016 to March 2017 themselves scrambled a whopping 851 times for intercepting PLA aircraft, “would not be quiet about that” if the Japanese government had not lately been preoccupied with North Korean nuclear weapons and missile development.

  John F Copper, a US political scientist and Taiwan expert, for his part noted that Taiwan’s scrambling of F-16s amid the recent PLA activities looks like a weak response to most, with the media reporting that China’s purpose in sending the Liaoning around Taiwan was to warn the DPP about supporting independence. 

  “It accentuates the fact that, contrary to what President Tsai and DPP leaders say, Taiwan will not decide its future,” Copper said. “The US will as only it prevents China from taking the island, which it could do easily according to recent studies and computer modelling.” 

  Copper went on arguing that the recent PLA activities also create a less obvious dilemma for President Tsai and what he calls “the left-of-center DPP,” as they supported Hillary Clinton in the US presidential race in 2016 but are now finding themselves completely relying on President Donald Trump.

  The pro-DPP media reports a lot of anti-Trump news and opinions, Copper said, suggesting that Trump is no doubt not pleased about this and is unhappy about Taiwan not living up to promises it has made to the US about spending 3 percent of its GDP on the island’s defenses.

  “PLA activities are a lot more frightening in Taiwan in view of this situation,” Copper said.

 

 

 

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