Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vietnam's dual-track defence strategy

The Straits Times Singapore
September 26, 2011 Monday

Robert Karniol, Defence Writer

AIMING to strengthen its security posture as a hedge against China's growing might - and, at the same time, nurture its global position - Vietnam is relentlessly rebuilding its armed forces while making a parallel effort to expand strategic ties.
Hanoi's defence diplomacy most recently produced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on defence cooperation with the United States, the tangible outcome of a bilateral defence policy dialogue held in Washington on Sept 19. The inaugural meeting a year earlier in Vietnam's capital largely focused on familiarisation.
'The MOU between Vietnam and the US provides a framework for bilateral cooperation in overcoming the war consequences, conducting research and training activities, ensuring maritime security, exchanging experiences and information as well as maintaining peace in the region,' Vietnam's deputy defence minister, Lieutenant-General Nguyen Chi Vinh, said in a radio interview with the Voice of Vietnam.
The agreement establishes a senior-level dialogue mechanism between Vietnam's Defence Ministry and the US Department of Defence to address issues relating to maritime security, search and rescue operations, United Nations peacekeeping and humanitarian aid/disaster relief. At the same time, Washington pledged its support for mine clearance operations in Vietnam while Hanoi undertook to further aid America's search for its military personnel gone missing in combat during the Vietnam War.
A separate initiative led by Vietnam's Foreign Ministry and the US State Department recently saw the two countries conduct their fourth bilateral Political, Security and Defence Dialogue. This process includes talks on potential US Navy access to Vietnam's port at Cam Ranh Bay.
Yet Washington still restricts military sales to Vietnam - a constraint that is currently the subject of bilateral discussion.
However, General Vinh pointed out in his radio interview that such arrangements with the US are hardly unique. 'Regarding defence cooperation,' he said, 'Vietnam has signed a number of MOUs with other nations such as India, China, Australia, New Zealand, Cuba and some Asean countries.'
Separate reports note that Singapore is also a defence dialogue partner, while recently concluded defence industrial cooperation agreements include Germany, Israel, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the United Kingdom. New bilateral defence dialogues involving Japan and South Korea could soon be launched.
Gen Vinh had just a few weeks earlier led a delegation to Beijing for a second defence and security dialogue. The People's Liberation Army team was led by Lieutenant-General Ma Xiaotian, deputy chief of the General Staff. Beyond the platitudes produced during the Aug 28 meeting, the two sides agreed to promote senior-level military exchanges, the establishing of a defence hotline and the expansion of joint training activity.
A Voice of Vietnam report did not shy away from controversy. 'Hostile forces have made two allegations: firstly, that Vietnam has to rely on the US to fight against China and, secondly, that Vietnam conceded its territory to China,' it stated.
Gen Vinh is quoted as commenting: 'We should make it clear to people of both nations that they should learn more about the facts and that, although there are still shortcomings in the Vietnam-China relationship, the two parties and states have committed to dealing with the issue through peaceful solutions in accordance with international law.'
Perhaps it is just in case, then, that Hanoi's outdated armed forces are being modernised on a significant scale.
Vietnam's force modernisation has so far included Kilo-class submarines, Sukhoi Su-30MKK fighters and DHC-6 Series 400 amphibious aircraft for maritime patrol. The Extra short-range ballistic missile has been obtained from Israel and last month, a second Gepard-class warship was delivered by Russia.
Two new deals with the Czech Republic have yet to be made public. Within the past year, the Vietnam People's Army (VPA) got three sophisticated Vera passive radiolocators after Washington reversed itself on an earlier demand that Prague block the sale, and within the past few months, the Czechs upgraded from analogue to digital a number of Vietnam's Russian-made P-18 radars.
The Vera system replaces three Ukrainian-made Kolchuga passive sensor systems Vietnam had on option after buying an initial three, whose performance may have proven disappointing.
Talks are now under way, aimed at acquiring from the Czech Republic 12 Let L-410 short-range transport aircraft, which would mainly be used to resupply Vietnamese-held positions in the Spratly archipelago.
Hanoi began considering force development in the early 1990s, not long after its 1989 military withdrawal from Cambodia. This produced a new defence posture characterised by lessened dependence on a large standing ground force together with enhancement of the navy and air force.
Years of neglect had taken a heavy toll on the VPA's largely obsolete inventory, and much of the force modernisation push represents a renewal. But then there's China to consider.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The India-Vietnam Axis

New Delhi sees Hanoi as a counterweight to Beijing, in the same way as Beijing sees Islamabad

India is the latest country to get drawn into the South China Sea dispute. Earlier this month, Beijing told New Delhi that its permission was needed for India's state-owned oil and gas firm to explore for energy in two Vietnamese blocks in those waters. This follows reports of a Chinese vessel confronting an Indian Navy frigate off Vietnam in late July.
Vietnam quickly cited the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to claim its sovereign rights over the two blocks in question. Hanoi has been sparring with Beijing over the South China Sea in the past year, so such a response was expected.
What's new is New Delhi not taking Chinese aggression in that region sitting down. It immediately decided to support Hanoi's claims. Last week, Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna visited Vietnam and made it clear that its state-owned firm would continue to explore in the South China Sea. The display of backbone helped India strengthen its relationship with Vietnam. If China wants to expand its presence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region, New Delhi's thinking goes, India can do the same thing in East Asia.
The linchpin of this eastward move would be Vietnam. Hanoi fought a brief war with Beijing in 1979 and has grown wary of the Middle Kingdom's increasing economic and military weight. That's why in some quarters of New Delhi, Vietnam is already seen as a counterweight in the same way Pakistan has been for China.
That's not to say good India-Vietnam relations wouldn't exist otherwise. Vietnamese have traditionally held Indians in high regard because of the latter's support for Vietnamese independence from France and their opposition to U.S. involvement in the country. And New Delhi formulated a "Look East" policy as early as 1991, to capitalize on East Asia's economic growth. But the rise of China has given this relationship a powerful strategic—not to mention urgent—dimension.
AFP/Getty Images
S.M. Krishna (left) with Vietnam's Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan in 2009.
Both sides realize that a stronger bilateral relationship starts with economic ties. The two countries signed an agreement in 2003 in which they envisioned creating an "Arc of Advantage and Prosperity" in Southeast Asia. So they've been boosting trade, especially after New Delhi signed a free-trade agreement with the Association of South-East Asian Nations in 2009. The volume of bilateral trade now exceeds $2 billion.
Both sides could still do more to enhance economic cooperation. Bilateral trade is much below the potential, given that India and Vietnam are major emerging economies. The two countries also need to think creatively about expanding investment opportunities, especially in the energy, steel, and pharmaceutical sectors. This can be done by establishing stronger institutional mechanisms that review the economic relationship on a regular basis and take steps to enhance it.
New Delhi's abiding interest in Vietnam, though, is in the defense realm. It wants to build relations with states like Vietnam that can act as pressure points against China. With this in mind, it has been helping Hanoi beef up its naval and air capabilities.
Given that Vietnam and India use similar Russian and erstwhile Soviet defense platforms, New Delhi could easily offer defense technologies to Hanoi. Talks are ongoing for India to sell the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, an Indo-Russian joint venture. Such arms could allow Vietnam to project regional power and improve deterrence against China.
The two nations also have stakes in ensuring sea-lane security, as well as shared concerns about Chinese access to the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Hence, India is helping Vietnam to build capacity for repair and maintenance of its defense platforms. At the same time, the armed forces of the two states have started cooperation in areas like IT and English-language training of Vietnamese Army personnel. The two are also sharing their experiences in mountainous and jungle warfare.
Naval cooperation, however, remains the focus. Here, Vietnam has given India the right to use its port of Nha Trang in the south; the Indian Navy has already made a port call. It is not entirely clear what the final arrangement would look like, but the symbolism of this is not lost on China.
The two countries potentially share a common friend—the U.S. New Delhi has steadily built relations with Washington in the past decade, while Vietnam has been courting America as the South China Sea becomes a flashpoint. As these three countries ponder how to manage China's rise, they will be drawn closer together.
By lashing out against India for its dealings with Vietnam, China has shown it will try to deter strategic competitors from collaborating against it. But if both India and Vietnam stand firm, they could force Beijing to moderate its expansionist claims on the South China Sea and adopt a more conciliatory stance on other regional matters.
Mr. Pant is a professor of defense studies at King's College, London.
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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Asian giants edging towards confrontation

The Straits Times Singapore
September 20, 2011 Tuesday

India beefs up security along border with China; builds ties with Vietnam
Ravi Velloor, South Asia Bureau Chief

NEW DELHI: For more than two years, top Indian officials have downplayed persistent media reports on aggressive patrolling by the Chinese along their disputed frontier by pointing out that it had been remarkably peaceful for over 20 years.
Analysts who spoke of a Chinese 'string of pearls' strategy of encircling India with bases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar were told pearl necklaces made 'pretty ineffective' murder weapons.
Now, New Delhi cannot stop raising red flags over the China threat. What is more, it seems ready to jut its chin out at its larger and more powerful neighbour.
Last week, India, which is rapidly building a strategic relationship with Vietnam and, some say, even eyeing a naval presence in Cam Ranh Bay, made it clear that it would undertake joint oil exploration activity with Vietnam in the South China Sea, ignoring Chinese objections.
Meanwhile, two strike forces that can penetrate Chinese defence lines in Tibet are being raised, along with steps for a general improvement in defence infrastructure along the China boundary.
Some strategic experts say it is important to cool the rhetoric, before Asia's two great tectonic plates rub too hard against each other.
China expert Sujit Dutta said: 'The last two to three years have not been easy, with China putting all sorts of pressure on India.
'While I do not think either side will be too foolish, it is also important to be prepared. With China, you just cannot be too careful.'
Both nations fought a brief border war in 1962, at a time when India's military was woefully unprepared. Memories of that defeat continue to rankle Indians, though the border has been largely peaceful for decades and trade ties have improved swiftly.
Indian officials have also acknowledged that China, which once backed insurgent groups in India's remote and restive north-east, seemed to have ended that policy in 1988. No longer though.
Last week, Indian Intelligence Bureau director Nehchal Sandhu told a conference of state police chiefs it was time to discuss 'fresh evidence of intrusive Chinese interest in the affairs of Indian insurgent groups'. It was the clearest indication of New Delhi's mounting concerns, weeks after it had warned Beijing to cease building dams and roads in the part of Kashmir that is in Pakistan's control.
The worry is that a fresh wave of insurgency in the north-east would require India to commit large numbers of troops, stretching the army's resources even thinner. Besides, it would add to the current internal security nightmares when a third of the nation's districts are faced with Maoist threats of varying intensity.
Analysts also say that while Kashmir has been relatively peaceful for most of the past year, there is every possibility that jihadist groups will turn their attention to the state once United States troops begin a slow withdrawal from Afghanistan. That might require India to keep hundreds of thousands of troops in Jammu and Kashmir. More than a third of India's army is currently stationed there.
Aside from the military build-up along the Tibet frontier, a key element of Indian counter-pressure has been the building of ties with Vietnam, which has a history of testy ties with China. Last week, Hanoi hosted India's Defence Secretary and Foreign Minister in quick succession.
There is talk that India is seeking access to the naval facilities at Cam Ranh Bay when the base opens in 2013, and will meanwhile start training Vietnamese officers in submarine warfare.
India also has shrugged off Chinese objections against plans by its overseas oil exploration arm, ONGC Videsh, to conduct joint prospecting in the South China Sea with PetroVietnam in blocks vacated by the energy giant BP. It says the Chinese objections have no legal basis because the blocks belong to Vietnam.
An official from the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said: 'The Chinese had concerns, but we are going by what the Vietnamese authorities have told us, and have conveyed this to the Chinese.'
Analysts say this amounts to New Delhi tacitly accepting Vietnam's position on its dispute with China, which could have consequences. Strategic analyst Bahukutumbi Raman of Chennai's Institute for Topical Studies warned: 'The ultimate result may be a confrontation with China in the seas adjacent to the Chinese mainland, which India cannot hope to win, and an overall deterioration in relations.'
Some Indian officials acknowledge the dangers, but say backing off would be more dangerous in the long term.
One official said: 'Other nations' claims to the area's resources are equally valid. By playing to their own sense of hyper-nationalism and reconstructed history, the Chinese are inflaming public opinion in India as well. All this makes accommodation that much more difficult.' /.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

US Military Security Paper On China – Analysis

Written by:

By Bhaskar Roy
The Pentagon annual report to the US Congress “Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, 2011” released to the public in August this year is a lesson how meticulously the Americans study China. Of course, more sensitive issues are not discussed in the open report, but there are pointers that need to be picked up by India and other Asian countries and reflect on them actively on a larger canvas.
It may be noted that India as a target of China is appearing increasingly in these reports. The current report, while taking note of improved India-China relations in trade and some confidence building aspects as well as military relations, also has words of caution for India. It briefly talks about China’s concerns over India’s rising economic, political and military powers, and steps taken to improve regional deterrence which include replacement of liquid fuelled CSS-3 Intermediate Range Ballistic Missiles (IRBMs) with more advanced solid fuelled CSS-5 Medium Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM) covering India; investment of road and infrastructure development along the India-China border; plans to move airborne troops into the region and other developments. Of course, it is known that the PLA is conducting high altitude training of its troops including para-dropping in the high mountains of Tibet. It is also known that China has established missile silos along the Tibet railway line to ensure that short and medium range missiles can be quickly transported to Lhasa and from there on to borders with India. The Qinghai-Lhasa railway made a test run last year with full military cargo. The paper fell short of mentioning this.
People's Republic of China
People's Republic of China
The section on the “South China Sea”, though not specifically mentioning India, have clear ingredients which may be read together with the India section especially in the context of the recent incident in July when the Chinese navy warned INS Airavat to leave the South China Sea claiming the warship was in China’s territorial waters.
The South China Sea is a critical Sea Lane of Communications (SLOC) for India to execute its interest basically economic, cultural and political, in South East Asia and East Asia. The warning to INS Airavat was a Chinese test to see how far it can push the envelope to make at least some pliable countries including India to individually accept China’s claim of sovereignty over the this sea. In this context, the report also notes China’s increasing use of fishing vessels for military purposes. The use of such vessels against Japan and the Philippines in this space of last one year, and the recent sighting of another such vessel fully equipped with monitoring equipment just outside Indian waters is of concern. This particular Chinese vessel was reported to have slipped into the Colombo port according to a Sri Lankan media story, though denied rather mildly by the Sri Lankan army. This raises questions for Indian security. Has Sri Lanka been finally persuaded by China to become a covert military partner against India? China’s all round ingress into Sri Lanka is now quite evident. Reports have emerged about China bribing Sri Lankan President Rajapaksa and his son to promote Chinese interests in the country. Additionally, using fishing vessels covertly for military purposes can be very dangerous if a collision takes place with an Indian naval vessel.
Not new though, the Pentagon paper links the East China Sea to the South China Sea Chinese strategy to indicate the regional tensions that could escalate. According to estimates, the East China Sea holds approximately 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 100 billion barrels of oil. The South China Sea, though not surveyed in detail contains equally substantive quantity of gas and oil. China has already demonstrated military intention with Japan (East China Sea) and with the Philippines and Vietnam in the South China Sea and its determination to bring these maritime areas under its full sovereignty. A recent Chinese official mouthpiece article (People’s Daily, August 30) warned the new Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, that Japan show enough respect for China’s national sovereignty, territorial integrity and core interest. The message was that the disputed islands in East China Sea under Japan’s control were Chinese sovereign territory. Similar is the case in the South China Sea.
If the two seas are looked at compositely, the enormity of their impact on the world at large can only be imagined. Till recent years these two seas were taken for granted as free international waterways, but China’s assertive claims on them from 2008 backed by a hugely growing military, stands to change the entire paradigm of Asia.
China’s strategy and forceful demands must be juxtaposed with its military development including area denial/access denial new armaments which have been comprehensively dealt with in the Pentagon report. East China Sea and the South China Sea are, in China’s strategic perception, would be contours of China’s sovereign territory from which to make further power projection overseas.
From India’s perspective, it would be essential to articulate its position in the Indian Ocean and the rim region and South Asia, as well on South China and East China Seas uncompromisable economic life lines.
Indian military planners would certainly be aware of China’s expanding maritime periphery which has everything to do with its great power status which in turn is dependent on its sustainable economic development which again in turn can be buoyed mainly by oil and raw material sources abroad. The main resource bases being in the Middle East and Africa, the Chinese navy would eventually want to secure the Indian Ocean with potential for conflict with India. Till now most of the free Sea Lanes of Communication (SLOCs) including in the Gulf were kept open by the USA. With America’s economic power in decline and domestic pressures to disengage militarily from abroad, it will seek partners to do the job. And China, which covets all, is not an ideal partner.
The Pentagon paper reminds us of the debate among the Chinese navy community of role in the “distant seas” and the need for bases overseas. In the near future, the PLA Navy (PLAN) is unlikely seek bases in the distant seas. They will need a much more expanded navy for that. But the PLAN and the Chinese leadership are certainly working towards that. Such facilities are there for the asking in Pakistan. The Sri Lankan government under President Mahinda Rajapaksa can work with China if the price is right. Beijing is making efforts in Bangladesh and Myanmar in different ways, but it will depend on India’s diplomacy if the Chinese are successful or not. Here comes issue of India’s Sea power and determined statement to protect its sea of interest, without acrimony.
Some other aspects like “Active Defence”, “Three Warfares” and sophisticated intelligence collection dealt in these paper (commented in earlier SAAG Papers by this writer) reminds us also of unstated threats India faces.
China’s professed military doctrine of “Counter attack” only if China is attacked is delusive. India is a victim of this deceptive strategy. Attack against India (1962), the Soviet Union (1969) and Vietnam (1979) were described as “Self-Defence Counter Attacks” by the Chinese. That is, it translates to the doctrine of “Forward Defence”-attack if it is perceived that the enemy may be planning an attack or deal it a psychological blow before it can even think of really challenging China. The 2011 paper finally acknowledged that the doctrine of “Active Defence” or “Forward Defence” does not mean a passive position of reacting following an attack, but an attack well outside its borders at a time of its choosing to debilitate a potential enemy even before an enemy has planned an attack. This can be applied to China’s official stance “no first use” of nuclear weapons.
There is an imperative need to understand and counter the “Three Warfares” strategy being mainly employed by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) with assistance from other state media. Psychological warfare uses action to deter and demoralize the enemy including the civilian population through demonstrative action. Media warfare involves writings/media propaganda that even uses friendly international support apart from forcing the mindset of the target. For example, the daily Pakistan Observer, controlled by Pakistan’s ISI is an able supporter of China’s policies especially those connected with India. Legal warfare involves the various convoluted arguments used by China selectively using parts of international law, historical records (equally concocted), and diplomatic interactions. None of these should be new to India.
Information warfare and intelligence collection is the more recent challenge for India. Indian government entities have been subjected to Chinese internet attacks. The Huawei technologies, China’s biggest information technology company along with ZTE are known to closely connect with the country’s security and intelligence apparatus. It is not only military technology that China is seeking. High technology have dual use applications, and India’s information technology of world class levels. Technology transfer from China, joint ventures with Chinese companies and other such collaborations give a wide window to place “assassin mace” weapons – switches and gates which transfer information to China, and placement of software which can be activated when required to neutralize the brain center of communications.
Of course, India’s private sector, where the IT brain is located, are interested in profit from China deals. National Security is way down in their priority. They may also ask themselves why they have failed to enter China’s IT entities which deal with the government, communication hubs or the military. There are issues which a democratic country like India finds difficult to deal with, but the USA and some western countries which are equally democratic and capitalist are fighting their private sector to keep out Chinese incursions. The Pentagon report gives three examples of Chinese embedded espionage, and efforts to keep the Huawei out is the current battle.
Putting aside the foregoing for a moment, it would be essential to examine the Pentagon report on China’s military in India’s context. When such reports mention a country or a region it conveys its concerns. As usual, this particular report mainly focused on Taiwan’s security and US-China military relations. These are primary concerns as is the security of Japan and freedom and neutrality of East China and South China Seas.
The gradual inclusion of India in such reports convey the US sees India as a possible partner in keeping these international SLOCs free of Chinese control and domination. If the US wants India to be one of its frontline states to contain China, there would be a problem. The US has its own arithmetic with China. Front line states are the first to be sacrificed in such relationship.
India’s capacity in “Mind-warfare” is abysmally poor. There is nothing to compare with China’s “Three warfares”-psychological, media and legal. The US does it beautifully taking the media and think tanks into confidence. In India, the authorities try to keep these entities at a distance. “Mind-warfares” is indispensible in today’s world.
India is a non-aligned country and has an independent foreign policy. But non-alignment is no longer a passive concept, and independent foreign policy does not mean non-responsive to enlist support in case it is required against aggression. This has been done in the past. It is for the US to appreciate India’s position, a country that shares a 4000 kms. border with China. Beijing on its part must understand that 1962 is old history. At the same time, India must demonstrate that its frugality in public statements is not a sign of weakness. In terms of security, China has emerged as India first and main priority. Beyond a point, nothing can be said with certainty. The 1.2 billion Indians also have a say.
About the author:
SAAGSAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.


September 13, 2011

Thursday, September 15, 2011

East Sea: a curse for China

One of the leading topics of interest  of the world today is the rise of China - the country in just three decades has transformed itself from a poor developing country to "the second  power of the world " .  If during the last decade of 20th century humanity was somehow skeptical about the viability of this country, then by the end of the first decade of the 21st century have been surprised in a bitter-sweet mood, even anxious to realize that its  development seems to be causing evils...  Why? Because the country's fake or toxic products have been  penetrating every corner of the world's markets;  Chinese migrants flooding in every continent;  indiscriminately  resources exploitation under the name of "Chinese projects"  taking place in most parts of the world from Asia, Africa, Latin America to deep seas; the phenomenon of the country's "irresponsibility" to all global problems, and its  aggresive readiness to use violence measures in settling island and sea  territorial disputes with neighbors, and so on . In fact,  the international opinion is turning from expectation to disappointment about the role of this emerging power. 

This short article  focuses only discussing the threat of China relating to the sovereignty dispute in the East Sea (South China Sea), which may suggest something about the behavior required by the relevant countries, and some experience for Vietnam .   

Expansionist hegemonic ideology is still there 
In China and the Orient, names of persons or places are normally associated with a sense of expectation. That was the case of the name "China" meaning the state situated  in the heart of the universe ( the Middle Kingdom). Some historical accounts say the name of China started from BC, but  became popular only from 206 BC-220 AD during the Han Dynasty 's ideological formation and development as a doctrine considering itself as the center of the universe while  other nations around are "galaxy", cruel, inhuman and  barbarians!  No matter if  right or wrong,  this way of  thinking has clearly been a driving force for the country to constantly expand its territory, initially from a normal small kingdom  become today's China of a vast area of nearly 10 million km2 and   a huge population of more than 1.3 billion. That way of thinking  is deeply rooted in the minds of Chinese whereever they are in the world, and this  is one of the factors that makes the difference between them and other people.   

If America was born late in a land which belonged to the British colony of  America thousands of miles away from Europe, then China was the result of thousands of years of perseverance to expand territory mostly  by actions of wars and annexation of its neighbors, never crossed the sea to conquer lands far beyond. This feature makes China virtually tends to behavior unequal-footing and unfriendly  with its neighboring countries. This is seen in all periods of the Chinese history, especially of the "Spring and Autumn Warring States" and "Three Kingdoms"; latter on were seen with the Korea war, constant conflicts with Taiwan, the  border wars with India, with former USSR, Taiwan and "big and small wars" with Vietnam. Never having  good neighborly and friendly relations with any neighbouring countries for long enough,  China must regularly maintain the form of "buffer zones" such as Xinjiang, Tibet or North Vietnam and North Korea since late 1950s , or  whereever needed  even built the Great Wall in the north, all but to protect the Central China.        

On the way to development, history shows that most Chinese dynasties advocated "inward" attitude rather than "outward", even line of "xenophobia" has become a national policy . This was seen clearly with the Qing dynasty and with the communist regimes for a long period after the 1949 revolution. While  European empires  had tried to explore distant lands by sea ways, the Chinese monarchies only focused on exploiting the interland to the surrounding areas by road. That is why China is famous for "silk road" but not any "good names" about the maritimetime, except notorious about its people escaping the domestic miserable conditions to exile across the sea,  which has become a current frequent phenomenon of the country.           

These characteristics and the phenomenon as above mentioned are more or less help us find answers for  the behavior of the Chinese in modern international affairs. In the East Sea issue, although there is no evidence for occupation in the distant past and never actually occupies so far , China is loudly announced its so-called "core interests" for the entire East Sea, including areas  already located in the territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of the other coastal states. As a matter of normal logic,  if really needed, the Chinese can only negotiate peacefully with neighboring states and other states  concerned ...,  but Beijing has chosen the way to confront all with the manner "to eat all of fall to zero". They do not seem to want to share but to monopolize the East Sea with any one at any price. Is it anything if not a continuation of hegemonic thinking of Great Han in the past?
Deadlock on development method 
The Chinese now seems repeating the outdated expedition of aggression and exploitation of resources applied by  imperialism and colonialism.  It maybe réulted from their  "illusion" due to constant feelling that China is a late comer and loser cpmparing with the other powers and now is self-encouraged by achievements of  "hot" economic achievement during the recent period? Hallucinations may make them choose the wrong policiy but thought it is correct (?). 
Let's see which is the real strength of China today. One can remember just over a decade ago, the world had seen China as a poveraged populous country, weak like  a  "paper tiger" or "giant on clay-feet." However, the country have been enjoying most advantages comapring with other developing countries thanks to the domestic economic reform taking place in coincidence with the resonance of the trend of globalization. Given the workforce's better  technology-skill, sense of discipline and infrastructure China could have been better acquiring and promoting the advancement of science and technology of the mankind. Nevertheless, it is not the real strength of a superpower. On the other hand, the hyper growth  in such a populous country has been posing  even bigger  challenges.   Unlike the case of Japan, Korea, Taiwan and other countries with smaller stature, who could have striven to become NIC (new industrial countries) by relying (mistletoe) on some "flagship" of the world economy like the U.S., EU,...,  ​​China is now impossible to do so, partly because of the run-out  state of energy, partly because of  the too large size of the country to rely on any "flagship".  International experts have also pointed out  factors that may hinder the longer-term development of this  giant country are the absence of a social democratic platform along with ethnic conflicts, the gap between the rich-poor,  urban-rural areas, from regions to regions,  and lack of raw materials, fuel and consumer markets, and others . These have been surely posing   considerable  pressure for this  "late-coming power" to try  by all means to overcome, including using force .

No one can deny the reason that China has to reach out searching for resources of raw materials and markets. However, what and how to reach out  is quite a different matter, especially in the context of today's world that has been high "institutionalized"  on the basis of ensuring equalfooting and fairness among nations no matter big or small. If the former capitalist like Great Britain, France, Portugal, Spain, etc ... managed to took advantage of  strength to conquer the maritime domain to "promised lands" and scavenged natural resources to bring back for their home construction, then it is now completely inappropriate and unacceptable for the awareness of modern mankind.

Perhaps to this recognition, the country's ex-leader  Deng Xiaoping put out the direction of two phrases: "peaceful rise" and "hidden" (ie, having to make use of the peaceful environmental advantage for economic development, but also to keep patient waiting for the ripetime, not so eager, to achieve the objective of world hegemony). However,  what  his next generation of leaders are now doing proves that they are impatient and fail to follow Deng's guidance, or simply because they can not wait any longer (?) Maybe that's why the Chinese leaders are now eager to apply the methods of the   old colonialism, not only for remote regions  such as Africa, Latin America, but also for the surrounding regions such as Central Asia, the Far East and Siberian regions of Russia, and also  sensitive adjacent regions of East Asia and Southeast Asia.

Wanting  to become an ocean power    
As a rising power, the Chinese may feel obssessed with the country position always surrounded from four sides, then why should they not give themselves  the right to choose to monopolize the East Sea as their domestic sea as well as an  outlet to the outside world ? They  also expect abundant sources of oil and gas to be tabbed from  here. This "twin objective" may govern the behavior of Beijing as seen recently in any activity relating to the East Sea isue. Although aware of their unjustice,  Beijing has chosen uncompromising attitude, even willing to play tough, brazen and violent.  Shown most clearly is that they announced the vague broken border-line of nine dots  declaring it as  "core interests" of China, at the same time deliberately creating  disputes  right inside territorial waters and exclusive economic zones of the other litoral countries. 

It is clear enough that  even though pre-calculated, the Chinese leadership is now so anxious that  can not wait and  now in  a rush to upgrade its navy forces with aircraft carriers, submarines, aircraft carriers, etc,... after the completion of the largest naval base at Hainan Island. Actually  they  have been conspiring to monopolize the East Sea by waging a series of aggressive actions by force of arms to invade the Paracel Islands from South Vietnam government in 1974 and then infiltrated some rocks in the Spratlys that was under the occucpation of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam .  By doing so the Chinese want to create the status-qout of from owning nothing to own some thing like a "mingled status" in the middle of the East Sea in supporting their claims in the long run.

On the diplomatic front, Chinese has been appling every trick from the internal division among the ASEAN member states to fabricating and distorting historical facts. While aserting that they have sufficient historical evidence of sovereignty over the East Sea  for 2,000 years, they dare not bring the matter before an international court. They firmly rejected the so-called "internationalization" issues in dispute and only want to deal bilaterally with each country to enjoy the advantages of the strong and they called for peaceful settlement but to use force and mass vessels to dominating and occupying each position on the sea with each country separately.

Morality  no mached by force    
In the natural world, elephant, bull, antelope and cattle are bigger than lions, but they never play the role as "lord of forest." In the human world too,  China has never been considered "numer one", and  it may naturally remains  the same  in the future.

The fact is that, since early 2011 the Chinese economy has been officially ranked the world's second  instead of Japan, but America still accounts for a very distant. In recent years amid U.S. and EU economies have been falling into deep recession while China sustaining  high growth rate of more than 10%  for many rining years,  Chinese people expect  to catch up and overtake America to become number one super power very soon! But if one looks at the whole structure of population distribution and uneven economic regions  and consider the internal problems of the country  one caneasily sees that this country is far from meeting all the factors necessary to become a  true"flagship" of the world economy. In contrast, many of China's so called economic achievement  are in turn become harmful to  economic interests of other countries, particularly their negative impact on the environment and healthcare of Mankind.

In geopolitical terms, China lacks the conditions necessary to enjoy  resources and markets of the world. In other words, China has been a "late comer" comparing with the other colonial empires in the possession and exploitation of resources, especially if it intends to re-use their outdated method of land and sea invasion and occupation for exploiting resources.

It can be said nowthat the choice of method development is the first challenge for China. But perhaps the difficulty is that the Chinese are not ready to remove their ideological hegemony and  worshipped habits of power and violence which used to be a motivation to build up the country . It is on the background of thinking, the   Chinese people once again showed disregard for international opinion, which sooner or later will spoil the image of "peaceful rise" that has just hardly gained. In the case of the South China Sea, the Chinese leadersgip has now to choose between peaceful cooperation with  neighbors or expansionist hegemony by using blatant military action.  They should get clear that behavior based on violent power not only seriously threatens the neighboring countries but also threatens peace, security in the region and the world, including the interests of other powers such as USA, Japan, Russia, India, South Korea, Australia  and various countries concerned, who will surely be not only hand-fold onlookers
On the other hand,  the constant use of  tradinionally Chinese deceptive tactics and tricks  has proved to the world that this giant state is not smart enough yet to bear the responsibility and honour of a real super-power .   Recently,   Secretary Albert del Rosario of the Philippines, lamented that " How  can you discuss anything in the bilateral framework, as you sit at the negotiating table with the Chinese saying things belong to them all". International observers  observe that Beijing often mention  about the UNCLO Convention, but in fact they have been beating about the bush  ignoring the real values of the sdocument that they have ratified.

In short,  by publishising the nine-dashes line covering about 85 % of the East Sea area claiming and declaring it "natioanal core-interest" of China, the Chinese leadership has been not only causing axiety for the neigbouring states and regional instablity but also a longterm risk for itself .  No one can assure you that if  continuing with the same behavior  like what it has been doing in the East Sea, China will not collapse before it can grow and become a true power. /. 

Tran Kinh Nghi  

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The South China Sea Is the Future of Conflict

The 21st century's defining battleground is going to be on water.


Europe is a landscape; East Asia a seascape. Therein lies a crucial difference between the 20th and 21st centuries. The most contested areas of the globe in the last century lay on dry land in Europe, particularly in the flat expanse that rendered the eastern and western borders of Germany artificial and exposed to the inexorable march of armies. But over the span of the decades, the demographic and economic axis of the Earth has shifted measurably to the opposite end of Eurasia, where the spaces between major population centers are overwhelmingly maritime.
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Tour the South China SeaA visual guide to understanding the conflict.

Because of the way geography illuminates and sets priorities, these physical contours of East Asia augur a naval century -- naval being defined here in the broad sense to include both sea and air battle formations now that they have become increasingly inextricable. Why? China, which, especially now that its land borders are more secure than at any time since the height of the Qing dynasty at the end of the 18th century, is engaged in an undeniable naval expansion. It is through sea power that China will psychologically erase two centuries of foreign transgressions on its territory -- forcing every country around it to react.
Military engagements on land and at sea are vastly different, with major implications for the grand strategies needed to win -- or avoid -- them. Those on land enmesh civilian populations, in effect making human rights a signal element of war studies. Those at sea approach conflict as a clinical and technocratic affair, in effect reducing war to math, in marked contrast with the intellectual battles that helped define previous conflicts.

World War II was a moral struggle against fascism, the ideology responsible for the murder of tens of millions of noncombatants. The Cold War was a moral struggle against communism, an equally oppressive ideology by which the vast territories captured by the Red Army were ruled. The immediate post-Cold War period became a moral struggle against genocide in the Balkans and Central Africa, two places where ground warfare and crimes against humanity could not be separated. More recently, a moral struggle against radical Islam has drawn the United States deep into the mountainous confines of Afghanistan, where the humane treatment of millions of civilians is critical to the war's success. In all these efforts, war and foreign policy have become subjects not only for soldiers and diplomats, but for humanists and intellectuals. Indeed, counterinsurgency represents a culmination of sorts of the union between uniformed officers and human rights experts. This is the upshot of ground war evolving into total war in the modern age.
East Asia, or more precisely the Western Pacific, which is quickly becoming the world's new center of naval activity, presages a fundamentally different dynamic. It will likely produce relatively few moral dilemmas of the kind we have been used to in the 20th and early 21st centuries, with the remote possibility of land warfare on the Korean Peninsula as the striking exception. The Western Pacific will return military affairs to the narrow realm of defense experts. This is not merely because we are dealing with a naval realm, in which civilians are not present. It is also because of the nature of the states themselves in East Asia, which, like China, may be strongly authoritarian but in most cases are not tyrannical or deeply inhumane.
The struggle for primacy in the Western Pacific will not necessarily involve combat; much of what takes place will happen quietly and over the horizon in blank sea space, at a glacial tempo befitting the slow, steady accommodation to superior economic and military power that states have made throughout history. War is far from inevitable even if competition is a given. And if China and the United States manage the coming handoff successfully, Asia, and the world, will be a more secure, prosperous place. What could be more moral than that? Remember: It is realism in the service of the national interest -- whose goal is the avoidance of war -- that has saved lives over the span of history far more than humanitarian interventionism.
EAST ASIA IS A VAST, YAWNING EXPANSE stretching nearly from the Arctic to Antarctic -- from the Kuril Islands southward to New Zealand -- and characterized by a shattered array of isolated coastlines and far-flung archipelagos. Even accounting for how dramatically technology has compressed distance, the sea itself still acts as a barrier to aggression, at least to a degree that dry land does not. The sea, unlike land, creates clearly defined borders, giving it the potential to reduce conflict. Then there is speed to consider. Even the fastest warships travel comparatively slowly, 35 knots, say, reducing the chance of miscalculations and giving diplomats more hours -- days, even -- to reconsider decisions. Navies and air forces simply do not occupy territory the way that armies do. It is because of the seas around East Asia -- the center of global manufacturing as well as rising military purchases -- that the 21st century has a better chance than the 20th of avoiding great military conflagrations.
Of course, East Asia saw great military conflagrations in the 20th century, which the seas did not prevent: the Russo-Japanese War; the almost half-century of civil war in China that came with the slow collapse of the Qing dynasty; the various conquests of imperial Japan, followed by World War II in the Pacific; the Korean War; the wars in Cambodia and Laos; and the two in Vietnam involving the French and the Americans. The fact that the geography of East Asia is primarily maritime had little impact on such wars, which at their core were conflicts of national consolidation or liberation. But that age for the most part lies behind us. East Asian militaries, rather than focusing inward with low-tech armies, are focusing outward with high-tech navies and air forces.
As for the comparison between China today and Germany on the eve of World War I that many make, it is flawed: Whereas Germany was primarily a land power, owing to the geography of Europe, China will be primarily a naval power, owing to the geography of East Asia.
East Asia can be divided into two general areas: Northeast Asia, dominated by the Korean Peninsula, and Southeast Asia, dominated by the South China Sea. Northeast Asia pivots on the destiny of North Korea, an isolated, totalitarian state with dim prospects in a world governed by capitalism and electronic communication. Were North Korea to implode, Chinese, U.S., and South Korean ground forces might meet up on the peninsula's northern half in the mother of all humanitarian interventions, even as they carve out spheres of influence for themselves. Naval issues would be secondary. But an eventual reunification of Korea would soon bring naval issues to the fore, with a Greater Korea, China, and Japan in delicate equipoise, separated by the Sea of Japan and the Yellow and Bohai seas. Yet because North Korea still exists, the Cold War phase of Northeast Asian history is not entirely over, and land power may well come to dominate the news there before sea power will.
Southeast Asia, by contrast, is already deep into the post-Cold War phase of history. Vietnam, which dominates the western shore of the South China Sea, is a capitalist juggernaut despite its political system, seeking closer military ties to the United States. China, consolidated as a dynastic state by Mao Zedong after decades of chaos and made into the world's most dynamic economy by the liberalizations of Deng Xiaoping, is pressing outward with its navy to what it calls the "first island chain" in the Western Pacific. The Muslim behemoth of Indonesia, having endured and finally ended decades of military rule, is poised to emerge as a second India: a vibrant and stable democracy with the potential to project power by way of its growing economy. Singapore and Malaysia are also surging forward economically, in devotion to the city-state-cum-trading-state model and through varying blends of democracy and authoritarianism. The composite picture is of a cluster of states, which, with problems of domestic legitimacy and state-building behind them, are ready to advance their perceived territorial rights beyond their own shores. This outward collective push is located in the demographic cockpit of the globe, for it is in Southeast Asia, with its 615 million people, where China's 1.3 billion people converge with the Indian subcontinent's 1.5 billion people. And the geographical meeting place of these states, and their militaries, is maritime: the South China Sea.
The South China Sea joins the Southeast Asian states with the Western Pacific, functioning as the throat of global sea routes. Here is the center of maritime Eurasia, punctuated by the straits of Malacca, Sunda, Lombok, and Makassar. More than half the world's annual merchant fleet tonnage passes through these choke points, and a third of all maritime traffic. The oil transported through the Strait of Malacca from the Indian Ocean, en route to East Asia through the South China Sea, is more than six times the amount that passes through the Suez Canal and 17 times the amount that transits the Panama Canal. Roughly two-thirds of South Korea's energy supplies, nearly 60 percent of Japan's and Taiwan's energy supplies, and about 80 percent of China's crude-oil imports come through the South China Sea. What's more, the South China Sea has proven oil reserves of 7 billion barrels and an estimated 900 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, a potentially huge bounty.
It is not only location and energy reserves that promise to give the South China Sea critical geostrategic importance, but also the coldblooded territorial disputes that have long surrounded these waters. Several disputes concern the Spratly Islands, a mini-archipelago in the South China Sea's southeastern part. Vietnam, Taiwan, and China each claim all or most of the South China Sea, as well as all of the Spratly and Paracel island groups. In particular, Beijing asserts a historical line: It lays claim to the heart of the South China Sea in a grand loop (widely known as the "cow's tongue") from China's Hainan Island at the South China Sea's northern end all the way south 1,200 miles to near Singapore and Malaysia.
The result is that all nine states that touch the South China Sea are more or less arrayed against China and therefore dependent on the United States for diplomatic and military support. These conflicting claims are likely to become even more acute as Asia's spiraling energy demands -- energy consumption is expected to double by 2030, with China accounting for half that growth -- make the South China Sea the ever more central guarantor of the region's economic strength. Already, the South China Sea has increasingly become an armed camp, as the claimants build up and modernize their navies, even as the scramble for islands and reefs in recent decades is mostly over. China has so far confiscated 12 geographical features, Taiwan one, Vietnam 25, the Philippines eight, and Malaysia five.
China's very geography orients it in the direction of the South China Sea. China looks south toward a basin of water formed, in clockwise direction, by Taiwan, the Philippines, the island of Borneo split between Malaysia and Indonesia (as well as tiny Brunei), the Malay Peninsula divided between Malaysia and Thailand, and the long snaking coastline of Vietnam: weak states all, compared with China. Like the Caribbean Sea, punctuated as it is by small island states and enveloped by a continental-sized United States, the South China Sea is an obvious arena for the projection of Chinese power.
Indeed, China's position here is in many ways akin to America's position vis-à-vis the similar-sized Caribbean in the 19th and early 20th centuries. The United States recognized the presence and claims of European powers in the Caribbean, but sought to dominate the region nevertheless. It was the 1898 Spanish-American War and the digging of the Panama Canal from 1904 to 1914 that signified the United States' arrival as a world power. Domination of the greater Caribbean Basin, moreover, gave the United States effective control of the Western Hemisphere, which allowed it to affect the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere. And today China finds itself in a similar situation in the South China Sea, an antechamber of the Indian Ocean, where China also desires a naval presence to protect its Middle Eastern energy supplies.
Yet something deeper and more emotional than geography propels China forward into the South China Sea and out into the Pacific: that is, China's own partial breakup by the Western powers in the relatively recent past, after having been for millennia a great power and world civilization.
In the 19th century, as the Qing dynasty became the sick man of East Asia, China lost much of its territory to Britain, France, Japan, and Russia. In the 20th century came the bloody Japanese takeovers of the Shandong Peninsula and Manchuria. This all came atop the humiliations forced on China by the extraterritoriality agreements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, whereby Western countries wrested control of parts of Chinese cities -- the so-called "treaty ports." By 1938, as Yale University historian Jonathan D. Spence tells us in The Search for Modern China, because of these depredations as well as the Chinese Civil War, there was even a latent fear that "China was about to be dismembered, that it would cease to exist as a nation, and that the four thousand years of its recorded history would come to a jolting end." China's urge for expansion is a declaration that it never again intends to let foreigners take advantage of it.
JUST AS GERMAN SOIL constituted the military front line of the Cold War, the waters of the South China Sea may constitute the military front line of the coming decades. As China's navy becomes stronger and as China's claim on the South China Sea contradicts those of other littoral states, these other states will be forced to further develop their naval capacities. They will also balance against China by relying increasingly on the U.S. Navy, whose strength has probably peaked in relative terms, even as it must divert considerable resources to the Middle East. Worldwide multipolarity is already a feature of diplomacy and economics, but the South China Sea could show us what multipolarity in a military sense actually looks like.
There is nothing romantic about this new front, void as it is of moral struggles. In naval conflicts, unless there is shelling onshore, there are no victims per se; nor is there a philosophical enemy to confront. Nothing on the scale of ethnic cleansing is likely to occur in this new central theater of conflict. China, its suffering dissidents notwithstanding, simply does not measure up as an object of moral fury. The Chinese regime demonstrates only a low-calorie version of authoritarianism, with a capitalist economy and little governing ideology to speak of. Moreover, China is likely to become more open rather than closed as a society in future years. Instead of fascism or militarism, China, along with other states in East Asia, is increasingly defined by the persistence of old-fashioned nationalism: an idea, certainly, but not one that since the mid-19th century has been attractive to intellectuals. And even if China does become more democratic, its nationalism is likely only to increase, as even a casual survey of the views of its relatively freewheeling netizens makes clear.
We often think of nationalism as a reactionary sentiment, a relic of the 19th century. Yet it is traditional nationalism that mainly drives politics in Asia, and will continue to do so. That nationalism is leading unapologetically to the growth of militaries in the region -- navies and air forces especially -- to defend sovereignty and make claims for disputed natural resources. There is no philosophical allure here. It is all about the cold logic of the balance of power. To the degree that unsentimental realism, which is allied with nationalism, has a geographical home, it is the South China Sea.
Whatever moral drama does occur in East Asia will thus take the form of austere power politics of the sort that leaves many intellectuals and journalists numb. As Thucydides put it so memorably in his telling of the ancient Athenians' subjugation of the island of Melos, "The strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must." In the 21st-century retelling, with China in Athens's role as the preeminent regional sea power, the weak will still submit -- but that's it. This will be China's undeclared strategy, and the smaller countries of Southeast Asia may well bandwagon with the United States to avoid the Melians' fate. But slaughter there will be not.
The South China Sea presages a different form of conflict than the ones to which we have become accustomed. Since the beginning of the 20th century, we have been traumatized by massive, conventional land engagements on the one hand, and dirty, irregular small wars on the other. Because both kinds of war produced massive civilian casualties, war has been a subject for humanists as well as generals. But in the future we just might see a purer form of conflict, limited to the naval realm. This is a positive scenario. Conflict cannot be eliminated from the human condition altogether. A theme in Machiavelli's Discourses on Livy is that conflict, properly controlled, is more likely than rigid stability to lead to human progress. A sea crowded with warships does not contradict an era of great promise for Asia. Insecurity often breeds dynamism.
But can conflict in the South China Sea be properly controlled? My argument thus far presupposes that major warfare will not break out in the area and that instead countries will be content to jockey for position with their warships on the high seas, while making competing claims for natural resources and perhaps even agreeing to a fair distribution of them. But what if China were, against all evidential trends, to invade Taiwan? What if China and Vietnam, whose intense rivalry reaches far back into history, go to war as they did in 1979, with more lethal weaponry this time? For it isn't just China that is dramatically building its military; Southeast Asian countries are as well. Their defense budgets have increased by about a third in the past decade, even as European defense budgets have declined. Arms imports to Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia have gone up 84 percent, 146 percent, and 722 percent, respectively, since 2000. The spending is on naval and air platforms: surface warships, submarines with advanced missile systems, and long-range fighter jets. Vietnam recently spent $2 billion on six state-of-the-art Kilo-class Russian submarines and $1 billion on Russian fighter jets. Malaysia just opened a submarine base on Borneo. While the United States has been distracted by land wars in the greater Middle East, military power has been quietly shifting from Europe to Asia.
The United States presently guarantees the uneasy status quo in the South China Sea, limiting China's aggression mainly to its maps and serving as a check on China's diplomats and navy (though this is not to say that America is pure in its actions and China automatically the villain). What the United States provides to the countries of the South China Sea region is less the fact of its democratic virtue than the fact of its raw muscle. It is the very balance of power between the United States and China that ultimately keeps Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia free, able to play one great power off against the other. And within that space of freedom, regionalism can emerge as a power in its own right, in the form of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Yet, such freedom cannot be taken for granted. For the tense, ongoing standoff between the United States and China -- which extends to a complex array of topics from trade to currency reform to cybersecurity to intelligence surveillance -- threatens eventually to shift in China's favor in East Asia, largely due to China's geographical centrality to the region.
THE MOST COMPREHENSIVE SUMMATION of the new Asian geopolitical landscape has come not from Washington or Beijing, but from Canberra. In a 74-page article published last year, "Power Shift: Australia's Future Between Washington and Beijing," Hugh White, professor of strategic studies at the Australian National University, describes his country as the quintessential "status quo" power -- one that desperately wants the situation in Asia to remain exactly as it is, with China continuing to grow so that Australia can trade more and more with it, while America remains "the strongest power in Asia," so as to be Australia's "ultimate protector." But as White writes, the problem is that both of these things cannot go on. Asia cannot continue to change economically without changing politically and strategically; a Chinese economic behemoth naturally will not be content with American military primacy in Asia.
What does China want? White posits that the Chinese may desire in Asia the kind of new-style empire that the United States engineered in the Western Hemisphere once Washington had secured dominance over the Caribbean Basin (as Beijing hopes it will over the South China Sea). This new-style empire, in White's words, meant America's neighbors were "more or less free to run their own countries," even as Washington insisted that its views be given "full consideration" and take precedence over those of outside powers. The problem with this model is Japan, which would probably not accept Chinese hegemony, however soft. That leaves the Concert of Europe model, in which China, India, Japan, the United States, and perhaps one or two others would sit down at the table of Asian power as equals. But would the United States accept such a modest role, since it has associated Asian prosperity and stability with its own primacy? White suggests that in the face of rising Chinese power, American dominance might henceforth mean instability for Asia.
American dominance is predicated on the notion that because China is authoritarian at home, it will act "unacceptably abroad." But that may not be so, White argues. China's conception of itself is that of a benign, non-hegemonic power, one that does not interfere in the domestic philosophies of other states in the way the United States -- with its busybody morality -- does. Because China sees itself as the Middle Kingdom, its basis of dominance is its own inherent centrality to world history, rather than any system it seeks to export.
In other words, the United States, not China, might be the problem in the future. We may actually care too much about the internal nature of the Chinese regime and seek to limit China's power abroad because we do not like its domestic policies. Instead, America's aim in Asia should be balance, not dominance. It is precisely because hard power is still the key to international relations that we must make room for a rising China. The United States need not increase its naval power in the Western Pacific, but it cannot afford to substantially decrease it.
The loss of a U.S. aircraft carrier strike group in the Western Pacific due to budget cuts or a redeployment to the Middle East could cause intense discussions in the region about American decline and the consequent need to make amends and side deals with Beijing. The optimal situation is a U.S. air and naval presence at more or less the current level, even as the United States does all in its power to forge cordial and predictable ties with China. That way America can adjust over time to a Chinese blue-water navy. In international affairs, behind all questions of morality lie questions of power. Humanitarian intervention in the Balkans was possible only because the Serbian regime was weak, unlike the Russian regime, which was committing atrocities of a similar scale in Chechnya while the West did nothing. In the Western Pacific in the coming decades, morality may mean giving up some of our most cherished ideals for the sake of stability. How else are we to make room for a quasi-authoritarian China as its military expands? The balance of power itself, even more than the democratic values of the West, is often the best safeguard of freedom. That, too, will be a lesson of the South China Sea in the 21st century -- another one that idealists do not want to hear.

Paul M O'Connell

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