Shenyang FC-31/ J-31 (The fighter has also been referred to as the “F-60” or “J-21 Snowy Owl”)

The Shenyang J-31(or “FC-31 fifth Generation Multi-Purpose Medium Fighter”) also known as the “Gyrfalcon” (鹘鹰), or “Falcon Hawk” by some military enthusiasts, is a twin-engine, mid-size fifth-generation jet fighter currently under development by Shenyang Aircraft Corporation. The fighter has also been referred to as the “F-60” or “J-21 Snowy Owl” (雪鸮) in some media reports. Its official name is Shenyang FC-31; J-xx nomenclatures in the Chinese military are reserved to programs launched and financed by the army, while this plane was developed by a state-owned company.


In June 2012, photos and camera video clips started to emerge on internet about a heavily overwrapped possible F-60 prototype being road-transferred on a highway, earning the nickname “the zongzi plane” (粽子机) among Chinese netizens, though some suspect it of merely being an L-15 trainer aircraft.

Pictures of a possibly fully assembled aircraft parking on an airfield emerged on 15 / 16 September 2012. The F-60 is reported to be the export version, where the J-31 would be the domestic Chinese version of the same fighter.

The appearance of the J-31 raised concern about a potential arms race in Asia, as some of China’s neighbors are pursuing the development of their own fifth generation aircraft (i.e. India with their HAL AMCA and HAL FGFA, Japan with Mitsubishi X-2 and South Korea with KAI KF-X) or are considering purchasing the F-35 and PAK FA.
U.S. military and industry officials believe that once the J-31 enters service, it will automatically be a match for existing fourth-generation fighters like the F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. They suggest that the capability of the J-31 against the newest fighters, such as the American F-22 and F-35, would depend on factors such as numbers of platforms, quality of pilots, and capabilities of radars and other sensors.
Vladimir Barkovsky of Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG (formerly known as the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau) has stated that, despite some design flaws, the J-31 “looks like a good machine.” Although it contains features already in use on the U.S. fifth generation fighter designs, it is “not a copy but a well done indigenous design.”

Data from Aviation Week unless otherwise attributed
General characteristics
Crew: one (pilot)
Length: 17.3 m (56 ft 9 in)
Wingspan: 11.5 m (37 ft 9 in)
Height: 4.8 m (15 ft 9 in)
Wing area: 40 m2 (430 sq ft)
Max takeoff weight: 28,000 kg (61,729 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × RD-93 afterburning turbofans, 85 kN (19,000 lbf) thrust each
Powerplant: 2 × WS-13 afterburning turbofans (projected upgrade)
Maximum speed: 2,200 km/h (1,367 mph; 1,188 kn)
Maximum speed: Mach 1.8
Combat range: 1,250 km (777 mi; 675 nmi) on internal fuel, or 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) with external tanks

Hardpoints: 6 x external, and internal bay with a capacity of up to 8,000 kilograms (18,000 lb), including 2,000 kilograms (4,400 lb) internally,
Air-to-air missiles:
12 x medium-range
Air-to-ground missiles:
8 x supersonic
30 x smaller bombs
Distributed aperture system (DAS) optical early-warning system
Electro-optical targeting system (EOTS)


Chinese Muslims & China-Arab Expo


Disparate fortunes in China’s Muslim ‘heartland’
By Haiyun Ma 

For three years running, the China-Arab Economic Forum has held its annual gatherings in Yingchuan, the capital city of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region in Northwest China – a region with the third-smallest GDP in China. 

The meetings, held in this “Muslim heartland”, attracted 18 national leaders, including Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, 195 ministerial officials, and 93 diplomats from 76 countries – and resulted in trade contracts worth about US$42 billion. Some 5,000 foreign and Chinese enterprises and 3,000 businesspeople from China and abroad participated in these forums, which were held in 2010, 2011 and 2012. 

This year’s total of US$42 billion in contracts surpassed in one year the combined value of contracts signed at the previous three China-Arab forums. 

The deals, agreed by a mix of private companies and state interests on both sides, were for agriculture, energy and new technology, cultural and educational tourism, halal food, and finance. 

Organized by China’s Ministry of Commerce, the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), and the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, the transformation of this regional gathering to one of national relevance, significance and scale underlines an effort to improve trade with Arab and Muslim countries. 

There were 22 Arab and 57 Muslim-majority countries targeted by the organizers of the 2013 China-Arab States Expo. And many of them came; including representatives from Jordan, Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and 67 other countries. The size of the Kuwaiti delegation was particularly noticeable in that it alone had an exhibition area of about 1000 square meters. Also of note, the expo wasn’t male-centered. 

According to the latest statistics from China’s Ministry of Commerce, Sino-Arab trade in the first 10 months of 2013 topped $194.9 billion. Although the expo’s precise contribution to overall Sino-Arab trade is unclear, this year’s total of US$42 billion was significant given the small size and lack of resources in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region. 

While trade opportunities at the expo may have centered on Ningxia, representatives and business people from other Chinese regions also attended these gatherings to make Arab and local business contacts. 

In addition to generating an increased volume of trade, these trade fairs have also become a potential platform for increased political consultation. China’s third national leader, Yu Zhengsheng, (the Chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference), said at the expo’s opening ceremony that there was a need for an “increase in mutual political trust and strategic consultation”. 

A bloody history
From a historical perspective, the expo’s location is of major significance. Ningxia was a battlefield between the Hui and Han peoples from the late 19th century up to the 1970s. Ningxia Hui Muslims were slaughtered there by the Chinese statesman and military leader Zuo Zongtang’s forces in the 1870s. This historical, religious, and ethnic hatred was reinforced in 1960s during the Chinese Cultural Revolution and its aftermath. 

Three decades after China launched economic reform of its coastal regions in the 1980s, China has now begun to see the “usefulness” of the interior Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and it’s Hui Muslim population – they constitute about 34% of the region’s total. Geographically isolated, it had been perceived as economically backward compared to the coastal regions. 

With this new expo and other initiatives, China is using the Hui connection to reach out to Arab and Muslim states. And, this has benefited Ningxia Muslims who are now engaged in trade with these countries on a regional, national, and international scale. 

Keeping in mind the historic tensions between Chinese Muslims and the Chinese state, this economic outreach, facilitated by cultural and religious ties, could create closer relations and a deeper level of trust between Hui Muslims and the Chinese state. This is no small feat. 

But China also has a history of using its Muslims for political gain when necessary. During the Sino-Japanese wars in the 1930s, China deployed Muslim intellectuals and diplomats to gain Arab and Islamic support for China’s resistance war. Today, relations between the Chinese state and Hui Muslims are again improving as Sino-Japanese relations have deteriorate. 

The Chinese state’s perception and treatment of Hui Muslims serves another curious purpose. It’s the kind of “positive capital” that stands in stark contrast to China’s relations with its Muslim Uyghur citizens in the neighboring Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. 

It is worth noting the historical differences between these two populations: 

• The Hui are not tied to a single region and, unlike in Xinjiang, there is no history of separatist movements desiring a more independent Ningxia. 

• Regional leaders in Ningxia (both Hui and Han) are more open-minded, politically enlightened, and less obsessed with political and ideological campaigns than their counterparts in Xinjiang. In general, Ningxia leaders are less obsessed with “fighting terrorism” and have better communications and connections with Beijing. 

• The Hui are more culturally and racially tied to the Chinese. They are actively involved in modern Chinese nationalism, and see that as a way of ensuring the survival of Islam in the Chinese nation. 

• The Uyghurs had two short-lived independent states, the East Turkistan Republics of the 1930s and 1940s in southern and northern Xinjiang. These are the states which Xinjiang officials constantly perceive as precedent for today’s Uyghur human-rights activities. 

While the future looks bright for China-Hui relations in Ningxia, China-Uyghur relations have precipitously deteriorated into tension, hostility, and violence on both sides. 

The forums in Ningxia have showcased and promoted China’s relationship with its Muslims, while China’s government in Xinjiang has attempted to de-Islamicize Uyghur Muslims there through restriction of Islamic practices – in hopes of containing and even eliminating Uyghur Muslim connections with their Central Asian neighbors. 

Another trade initiative – the annual China-Eurasia Expo – was launched in Urumqi in Xinjiang in 2011 as an attempt to increase trade with China’s western neighbors in Central Asia. The organizers in this case downplayed the role of Xinjiang’s Turkic/Islamic cultural and religious ties with the region. This trade fair is jointly organized by China’s Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Xinjiang government and Xinjiang Development and Construction Corps. 

Given the tension and hostility between the Uyghurs and Xinjiang authorities and the Chinese government’s “Anti-Three (Evil) Forces” campaign (“separatism, extremism, and terrorism”), Uyghurs have found it difficult to participate in this government-organized trade fair. They are not encouraged to participate, probably out of China’s fear that they (the Uyghurs) will build closer relations with Central Asian Turkic states. Instead China has focused on encouraging the Han (ethnic Chinese) to engage in China-Central Asia communication. 

As Ningxia’s utilization of Islam indicates, trade is not merely an exchange of goods, but also culture and emotion. China seems not to have considered that Uyghur participation in the China-Eurasia Expo would enrich the Uyghur community and greatly contribute to the projection of Chinese economic, as well as cultural, power in Central Asia. 

Chinese officials should re-examine the Ningxia business model, which was endorsed by the Beijing government, and, ironically, initiated by a Ningxia government previously suspicious of Islam and Muslims. The success of the China-Arab States Expo proves that cultural tolerance and economic prosperity can be interconnected. And that, in the end, Islam turned out to be a selling point. 

Ningxia and Xinjiang, Eurasian stops along the ancient Silk Road, should both be tied to the country’s strategic plan for the restoration of this historic trading route. (a long-range project the Chinese president Xi Jinping formally announced during his visit to Kazakhstan in early September 2013). 

China is also promoting another project – the Trans-Asian Railway, or Eurasian Land Bridge, that would strengthen China’s economic ties with the West by connecting Asia and Central Asia with Europe. 

What is lacking in both these initiatives, and China’s broader business strategy, is an acknowledgement by the leadership that there could be positive benefits to come out of the Uyghurs’ historical, ethnic, cultural, and religious connections with Central Asia and their religious connections with the broader Muslim world. And that the Uyghurs could be seen as a source of peace and prosperity, as opposed to instability. 

Yu Zhengsheng said the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region lies at the crossroads between China and the Middle East, Central Asia, Africa, and Europe, and that it should play a more important role in Sino-Arab cooperation. 

If the China-Arab Expo can bridge differences between China and the Arab and Muslim countries it does business with, and achieve prosperity for all, then there’s no reason to exclude Uyghur participation in the China-Eurasia Expo, Silk Road project, and China’s broader economic outreach to Muslim countries. 

It can only increase China’s prosperity and improve China’s relations with Uyghur Muslims as well as the Muslim World 

(Copyright 2014 Xinjiang Review) 

Turkey to buy Chinese defence missiles

Turkey goes for Chinese take-away defense
By Peter Lee

On September 26, 2013, Turkey made the rather eyebrow-raising decision to put its long range missile defense eggs in a Chinese basket, announcing it had awarded a US$3 billion contract to the People’s Republic of China for its truck-mounted “shoot and scoot” FD-2000 system.


The Chinese FD-2000 is based on the Hong Qi missile, which has been around since the 1990s. The FD-2000 is an export version of the HQ-9 that appeared in 2009 and is marketed as a next-generation improvement on the Russian S-300 system, but whose fire control radar looks more like the radar matching US-based Raytheon’s Patriot missile system (with the implication that the PRC filched the technology, maybe with some help from Israel).

Defense correspondent Wendell Minick relayed the description of the FD-2000 that China provided at a 2010 Asian arms show:
It can target cruise missiles (7-24 km), air-to-ground missiles (7-50 km), aircraft (7-125 km), precision-guided bombs and tactical ballistic missiles (7-25 km). “FD-2000 is mainly provided for air force and air defense force for asset air defense to protect core political, military and economic targets,” according to the brochure of China Precision Machinery Import and Export Corporation (CPMIEC), the manufacturer of the system. It can also coordinate with other air defense systems to “form a multi-layer air defense system for regional air defense.”
Turkey is procuring 12 of these systems (it had originally requested 20 Patriot systems when Syria heated up and got six for a year, since renewed).

The FD-2000 looks great on paper. However, it appears to be untested in combat – and even the Patriot system is apparently not effective against cruise missiles, implying that the Chinese system isn’t going to do any better. Political issues aside – and there were a lot of political issues – the deciding factor for Turkey was probably low price, and China’s willingness to do co-production and technology transfer.

Maybe the Chinese government are eager to put the FD-2000 in some foreign hot spot in the hopes of getting some real, battlefield data and make some upgrades before the cruise missiles start flying toward Beijing.

Press reports from June already implied that Turkey was leaning toward the Chinese system. However, Turkey’s announcement in the midst of the Syrian chemical weapons negotiations still looks like a slap at the United States, which makes the Patriot missile system, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is now manning six Patriot batteries at present installed in Turkey. 

Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan certainly is feeling piqued at the US-led detour into chemical weapon destruction in Syria, instead of support for the quick regime collapse that he has been craving ever since he made the precipitous and rather premature decision to call for the fall of Bashar al-Assad in the summer of 2011.

Turkey’s aggressive regime-change posture has always carried with it the risk of Syrian chemical weapon retaliation, as a Xinhua piece pointed out in early November:
Turkey’s army build up on its Syrian border continued, with some 400 chemical, biological and nuclear units arriving in the region as a measure against a possible chemical threat.

While some analysts cited NATO anti-missile defense systems deployed in Turkey, others doubted their effectiveness.”The citizens in the southern border have not been given adequate equipment to protect themselves, especially from chemical attacks,” said Turkish academic Soli Ozel. “Let’s say that one battery misses one missile … The smart missile may not be so smart.”

Suspicion of the Patriot’s missile-busting awesomeness seems to be endemic in Turkey:
Sait Yilmaz, an expert, told Turkish daily Today’s Zaman that Patriots – the anti-ballistic missiles provided by NATO – would not be effective against short-distance missiles. He said that if Syria fired a large number of missiles on Turkish targets at such a short distance, most would go uncountered.

The general consensus seems to be that if Syria unleashed a barrage of short-range missiles the Patriot missiles would not do a sensational job; indeed, the suspicion is that the six batteries are in Turkey merely as a symbolic show of NATO support for Turkey. Presumably, the protection provided by the FD-2000 would also be less than 100%. Syria, however, is something of a sideshow in Turkey’s missile defense game.

Turkey’s decision to procure these missile defense assets goes back to 2011 and was part of Turkey’s ambiguous dance with the United States, NATO, and Iran and the threat of Iran’s long range missiles.

In 2011, the Obama administration announced that Turkey’s participation in the US/NATO integrated ballistic missile defense system would be limited to hosting a radar station at Malatya – without any NATO provided missile defense. Unsurprisingly, Iran announced that a NATO radar station in Turkey would have a bull’s eye painted on it and Turkey was left to its own devices to deal with the Iranian threat. Therefore, the Turkish government embarked on its procurement odyssey seeking a defense against long range (ie Iranian) missiles, which ended with the announcement of the purchase of the FD-2000.

It can be assumed that Turkey, eager to maintain its regional clout as an independent security actor, made the conscious decision to stick a finger in Iran’s eye by siding with the US and NATO on the radar (while stipulating that Iran must never be formally identified as the radar’s target), and to try to manage Iran’s extreme displeasure by deploying a more Turkish, non-NATO, presumably less confrontationally managed missile defense system. 

Performance questions aside, the Syrian trauma has reinforced Turkey’s desire for a non-NATO missile defense system. As an analysis on the Carnegie Europe website pointed out, Turkey’s feelings of being slighted by the US and NATO on Syria are no accident and translate rather directly into an independent defense policy:
In a little-known episode of NATO history, the only Article 5 [collective self defense] crisis-management exercise ever conducted by the organization ended in disagreement. Coincidentally, the scenario for the exercise, held in 2002, was designed to simulate an Article 5 response to a chemical weapons attack by Amberland, a hypothetical southern neighbor of Turkey.

Amberland was known to have several Scud missiles, tipped with biological and chemical warheads, aimed at Turkey. During the seven-day exercise, the United States and Turkey reportedly took a more hardline stance in support of preemptive strikes, while Germany, France, and Spain preferred to defuse the crisis through more political means.

The exercise apparently ended with NATO members disagreeing about the prospective NATO response before any attack was carried out or Article 5 was officially invoked. [8]
As Turkey sees it, in other words, maybe the danger on Iran is that NATO will go too far and embroil Turkey in a regional confrontation it does not desire; on Syria, the reality is that NATO doesn’t go far enough, and is leaving Turkey vulnerable to Syrian retaliation for Erdogan’s perilous overreach on Syrian regime change.

Even though the FD-2000 is not well-suited to coping with a Syrian short range missile threat, the missile defense batteries could also assist in enforcing a no-fly zone at the Syrian-Turkish border, something that NATO has specifically ruled out for its Patriot batteries in Turkey (which are for the most part safely out of range of the Syrian border and whose main purpose seems to be protecting NATO and US military installations) without an enabling UN resolution or suitable coalition.

Turkey would probably be happy to have this independent capability in its security/Syria destabilization portfolio though, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars per pop, it will probably think twice about a shooting spree of FD-2000 missiles at Syrian planes.Erdogan is also unhappy with Russia’s frontline support of the Syrian regime militarily as well as diplomatically, especially compared with Chinese discretion, and that’s probably why he didn’t choose the S-300 option.

Iran, which has experienced the headaches of politicized supply (or, to be more accurate, non-supply) of its S-300 missile defense system by Russia, is also reportedly considering the FD-2000 (its manufacturer, CPMIEC, was sanctioned by the United States for unspecified Iran-related transgressions presumably relating to Chinese willingness to transfer missile technology) … but maybe Iran is thinking long and hard about the rumor that the fire control radar technology passed through Israel’s hands on its way to China.

Apparently a Western marketing point steering Turkey away from Russian or Chinese systems was the argument that inoperability with NATO equipment would be a problem and the missile defense batteries would be sitting there without vital linkages to NATO theater-scale radar and missile-killing capabilities (though Greece, with an inventory of Russian S-300s, somehow managed to make do).

Well, maybe that’s the point. Erdogan is implying he doesn’t want to rely on the United States or NATO – which might demand Turkey’s diplomatic and security subservience and NATO control over Turkish missile defense assets – to keep his missile defense system working, while exposing both missile sites and the radar facility to Iranian NATO-related wrath.

Perhaps Erdogan has abandoned his dreams of full partnership with NATO and the European Union, and doesn’t see Turkey as Europe’s front line state in the Middle East. He wants his own, independent missile defense capability to protect distinctly Turkish targets and manage his relationships with Iran and Syria on a more bilateral basis.

And as far as the People’s Republic of China is concerned, it can mollify Iran with the observation that China, by stepping up and providing the system in place of Raytheon or a French/Italian consortium, was preventing the full integration of Turkey into the NATO missile defense bloc.

In which case, Turkey’s name on the NATO membership rolls should include an asterisk denoting its special status. Or maybe it should be a red star.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.


US Beating China at its own game?

The right kind of mistake
By Benjamin A Shobert

Interested in beating the China at its own game? A lot of Americans certainly are; but if the collapse of solar manufacturer Solyndra is any indication, policy makers in Washington just got badly burned at an attempt to have the American government play a similar role as the Chinese government does with clean technology investments.

While the initial focus on the Solyndra deal will be specific to why this California company, which received some US$535 million in federal loan guarantees, went out of business and whether it received these loans because of its political connections to the George W Bush and Barack Obama administrations, the larger question about the role of the United States government as a financier of such businesses will have long-term political and policy repercussions.

Flowing from its 12th five-year plan for 2011-15, China has made a top-level commitment to clean technology. The Chinese government has made countless investments of the same size, scope and intent as the US government’s investment in Solyndra.

While the two governments share a desire to see green technology industries address mutual problems such as global warming and renewable energy, both also understand that showing leadership in this area will have larger geo-political implications.

The winning formula – whether state-led like China or private-industry led like the US – will gain in legitimacy and likely be deployed by emerging economies as they look for similar nascent technologies to propel their countries forward.

Beyond this strategic consideration, China has two more immediate objectives: first, to address the environmental damage its rapid industrialization has done to the country, and second, to make clean-technology one of the first high-technology industries where China has legitimate leadership claims against its Western counterparts.

The leadership in Beijing understands that its economy is close to a tipping point where, absent an ability to develop the domestic economy and use innovation to move up the value chain, they will be unable to continue growing. As a result of these two objectives, Beijing has aligned its politics and policies in such a way as to give every possible advantage to Chinese firms pursuing clean technologies.

The result of this alignment has been to create an incredibly hospitable environment for clean technology industries, whether started by Chinese or Western entrepreneurs.

Ken DeWoskin and Jim Mahoney of Deloitte’s CleanTech Group have written “For cleantech investors in China, the future is bright. There is an almost optimal alignment of government policy and commitment, consumer awareness, domestic and foreign capital, land, technical expertise, and entrepreneurs to create and sustain a very long run of successful investments.”

This sort of concentration of public policy, limited regulation, consumer demand, and large amounts of capital is all a result of Beijing’s unrelenting focus on the area of clean technology. It is a government-led, government-sponsored, and government-designed strategy.

Recognizing this sort of focus could spell trouble to American clean technology companies, the US-China Economic and Security Revision Commission (USCC) in 2010 released to congress their report which cautioned that, in the area of clean technology, “Energy analysts generally agree that Chinese policies on renewable energy research, development, and production are comprehensive and heavily funded by the government over the long term. This is in contrast to US policies that are too often uncoordinated among levels of government and subject to the uncertainty of the annual appropriations process on the federal and state levels.”

The implication is clear: because China’s internal political process assumes there is a strong role for the state to play, it is able to move faster and more forcefully than the American system, which is inherently suspicious of government’s involvement in the area of technology development.

The combination of American electoral politics, which has grown militantly defiant over the idea that additional government in any sector of the economy is a good thing, and the perceived failure of American public policy – seen most recently with the collapse of Solyndra – make for a profound challenge to entrepreneurs and policy makers in the United States whose focus is clean technology.

Unfortunately, the clean technology industry in the United States is already far along in its migration towards basing operations in China instead of domestically. Beyond the previously mentioned advantages, three additional factors are playing into this decision.

First, the Chinese government’s massive emphasis on this technology area has created some of the world’s best-educated scientists and engineers in the field of clean technology who hail from China’s universities.

Second, the streamlined regulatory environment in China means new clean technology ventures can get to scale faster than they otherwise could in more heavily regulated Western markets. As was seen during protests by Chinese residents of Haining this year over potential pollution related to production of solar panels by Jinko Solar Holding, these streamlined regulations are not always well received and may, in some cases, prove to be politically untenable even in China. Regardless, the overall emphasis on green technology industries in China means the government looks to stay out of the way, acting as a regulatory body only where absolutely needed.

Third, American companies looking into China are being greeted with much more, and much less expensive, capital than what they have been able to find in North America. A more educated and less expensive work force, minimal government interference, and access to more (and less expensive) money are a combination few entrepreneurs are going to be willing to pass up.

But as the Solyndra deal should illustrate, even in a reasonably transparent system like that of the United States, it is possible – and perhaps even likely – that much of the investments made by government into new technologies will prove to be useless.

The Department of Energy estimates that overall it will suffer an approximate 10% failure rate of loans it has extended to new clean technology businesses. No one really knows what the failure rate of loans extended by the Chinese government to clean technology businesses has been, and given the overall opaque nature of China’s state-sponsored banking system and its own legacy of non-performing loans, this percentage may never be known.

In China, at least as long as its economy hums along and it has the liquidity at its disposal to make these levels of investments, this sort of loss would not be a surprise, nor cause for a policy adjustment. In many ways, this type of failure is part of the process of moving forward; conversely, in America, this sort of failure is cause for congressional investigations, political recriminations, and the inevitable policy reversal away from government sponsored investments in new technologies.

The cynical mood of Americans will likely result not in refining how we make public investments in new technologies, but throwing out altogether the very idea that government has any contribution to make in new technologies whatsoever. Given the challenges American workers, consumers and policy makers face addressing China’s rise, this sort of response would be a terrible mistake.

The delicate balancing act to strike – and one that China may not be striking either – is between the right role for government versus no role for government. The prevailing attitude in the United States is that government has no role acting as an investor or providing incentives for new technologies; the prevailing attitude in China is that government has both the opportunity as well as the responsibility to act in just this way.

Where Americans believe their system elevates the market as the answer, the Chinese largely agree, adding only that the market speaks for technologies as they approach commercial readiness, and not before. As such, the Chinese believe the right policy approach is for government to get behind science before it is applied technology, and behind technology before it is commercially viable.

Will this create problems in China related to bad investments, non-performing loans, and technology dead-ends? Yes, but they expect that and have the political mindset to view this as a necessary cost.

Solyndra’s collapse may well be the first major scandal of the Obama administration. But as it becomes clearer whether government officials green-lit a loan package they should not have purely for political ends, the question should also get asked of whether Solyndra’s failure proves government has no role to play in these matters, or whether this was simply a bad investment that, while poorly evaluated, was part of the cost of developing an economic and investment strategy for how the United States will compete with China.

Before Americans drive government out of this part of our public economic policy, it is important that we have another answer, one that takes into account the enormous focus and resource base our primary competitor across the Pacific is putting behind these same questions, policies, and technologies.

Benjamin A Shobert is the managing director of Teleos Inc (, a consulting firm dedicated to helping Asian businesses bring innovative technologies into the North American market. 

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