Tag Archives: militarizing coral reefs

Commentary— China–Again

With lockdown and unbridled fear of covy-19, I have done little else but sit at the computer—most of the time staring at a screen filed with stories of “death and dying”. I have been intentionally hiding away from late cable news because all it does is tells us in graphic detail how slow or fast we are dying. I frankly have enough disturbing dreams.
So today, notwithstanding my intentional hiding, the first thing I notice, while the world swings blindly at our pandemic threat, is that there is an increase of hostility in our geopolitical world that doesn’t pause for a vaccine or virus test. Buried behind the last pages of the news, three days ago, we find that the leader of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, has once again announced to the world in his warning to Israel that he will tear up their bilateral agreements if the Jewish state should attempt to extend its sovereignty over parts of the West Bank. Then yesterday, Abbas upped the rhetoric, warning of the rise of violence at a time the U.S. had done little to damp down that tinderbox. And, then today, Iran promised to supply arms to Abbas. Washington may have underestimated the international consequences and direct impact on our national security interest, if that threat is carried forward.
It is particularly important for us to be fully engaged with all sides of the international community while in the midst of an international virus attack, a sharp international economic free-fall and most important, China’s increasingly aggressive activities.
China, once again, looms code red on our radar. As I have written previously, I view China as a greater threat to our wellbeing than Russia. China is the second largest holder of our national debt; we owe it trillions of dollars, and they clearly do not cower or recoil from threats or condemnation from the U.S. To the contrary, whenever we throw a barb at them, they respond twice-fold in flipping us off. They have just begun the end of a long history of democracy in Hong Kong.
I have written that China has aggressively increased not merely its presence in the South China Sea but also in the Indian Ocean. It is in territorial conflict with six nations in that region. The United States has informed the India government to resist China’s aggression on their common Himalayan boarder. China’s neighbors, other than India, do not have either the military or economic capacity to confront them on an equal footing. The area depends upon the ability and desire of the United States to place a steady and even hand on the region.
Each day brings greater revelations, most often reported in the small print at the end of a story, of the Chinese building and expanding their military infrastructure and power. Their intentions are obvious –to position themselves as the world’s most influential nation—economically and militarily. We, for a number of reasons, are increasingly removing ourselves from that leadership position. I argue that we will pay a heavy price for that action.
I am not an arms hawk, but I am aware that one cannot unilaterally reduce ones military strength and withdraw from arms agreements. To do so would be utter folly and would defeat our ability to fully defend ourselves not merely at home but in those buffer zones we have developed with friends and enemies abroad. I recognize, at this time of a severe economic turndown, that there are urgent domestic needs seeking economic fairness among all our citizens. There need not be a question of building another aircraft carrier vs housing for the needy. We need not stifle a crucial food program to replenish outdated fighter jets. It is reckless and irrational to put our nation’s needs in an either/or conundrum.
China is not merely a political and economic threat –it is a clear military threat to the United States and our interests. It can better withstand a virus attack on its population than either Russia or the U.S. Although, the political opposition in Russia is closely monitored, it doesn’t compare to the harsh methods used by Beijing to suppress and eliminate opposing voices. And so when China, in the face of a virus pandemic, pulled back on its economic forecasts and closed down Hong Kong’s democracy, while in the process of building its third aircraft carrier, (after illegally enlarging and militarizing “coral reefs”) we should sit up and pay close attention.
The Chinese state owned and controlled Jiangnan shipyard, is building China’s newest aircraft carrier, and has just launched its first large floating work dock. The significance is that China now has the capacity to launch and transport large and ultra large ship modules. This is a momentous breakthrough. Its size is breathtaking. For years this shipyard had been building China’s destroyers and warships. Its ability now expands its capacity to deliver a wider, diverse and enlarged naval force. Second only to the U.S. and Russia, the Chinese military continues to grow alongside a domestic, mushrooming military-industrial complex. And probably more important, China’s fighter jets’ strength is second only to the United States.
Unlike some in our Congress who can be bellicose in rattling the sword of war, I do have a stake in how we take our stance in world politics. I have four grandsons whom I do not want to see sent to war. China is an economic and military bully. And perhaps because it has one billion more in population than the United States, it feels that, it can, in the long run, outlast and overpower its hemisphere neighbors first and then the world. In 1938-39 the world had the power to stop Hitler. It didn’t. We felt that the Atlantic Ocean protected us from the war in Europe and it didn’t. The United States had the power to stop the Soviet Union from implanting its missiles in Cuba. And it did. The Pacific Ocean, notwithstanding that San Francisco is over 5,000 miles away from Beijing, we are not protected from China’s aggression.
We have the power, without firing a shot or short changing the real and obtainable needs of all Americans at home, to stop China’s expansion. To understand the importance of the South China Sea (SCS) and its place in the world’s economy, it is estimated that over 3 trillion dollars of global trade ships through the SCS, and that accounts for at least one third of all the global maritime trade. China’s economy thrives in the SCS.
Because China has no “boots on the ground” in territory where it is seeking to expand its control, one may not view this as a sign of China’s lack of military determination to control the region far beyond its physical boarders. It is a useful lesson in defining the meaning of “territorial aggression” and “foreign occupation”. When a foreign nation’s ship intrudes into your territorial waters without prior permission, that is an aggressive military act. When a foreign nation’s warships patrolled your sovereign water, that is territorial aggression; when a foreign nation sends surveyor ships, uninvited, into your territorial water, that is an aggressive military act. And it is not just in the SCS that China is moving aggressively. The Heritage Foundation reports that China has quietly embarked on government building projects across Africa that add up to a counterintelligence nightmare for the United States and its partners.
The China tariff war, started by the current President, was misdirected and did more economic harm than good. Our naval presence and patrolling of the South Asia Sea is both appropriate and necessary. But that is clearly not enough to stop and reverse China’s territorial aggression. We must engage in an aggressive economic program specifically aimed at China’s hostile territorial claims, so that China will feel more than verbal internal condemnation. Time is not on our side.
Richard Allan,
The Editor