This morning I saw this piece in VZGLIAD and decided to engage. This will probably take several installments, since this is long and involved. And moreoever, events in the Far East — places like China and Japan — are not exactly my forte. But this is an important story, there is a very real chance that WWIII could break out, precisely here, in the vast waters of the South China Sea.
The piece is written by Russian analyst Petr Akopov, the headline somewhat cryptically reads:
Crimea Brought the Russian Fleet Into the South China Sea
So, let us begin. The Chinese Minister of Defense Chang Wanquan has just completed a round of inspections along the coastal regions of the province of Zhejiang.
According to google:
Zhejiang, a province in eastern China, encompasses a rural interior and urban centers along the East China Sea. The capital, Hangzhou, is the site of picturesque West Lake, with islands, gardens and landmarks such as 5-story Leifeng Pagoda. Wuzhen, dating to 872 C.E., is notable among the province’s water towns, with stone bridges, restored historic districts and waterways fed by the Grand Canal.
During his inspection tour, Chang spoke about the theat to China’s sovereignty over its ocean assets. Even sounding somewhat bellicose, Chang declared that “the army, the police, and the people must prepare for a mobilization to defend the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the nation”. He also spoke of a “People’s War on the Sea”. This is tough and direct talk from a normally inscrutable guy.
Chang was alluding to the South China Sea, where there rages a property dispute over a set of islands. The Big Gorilla in the World, i.e., the USA, has taken sides in this quarrel, and leads the efforts against China. In response, China has invited the Russian Federation to participate in joint Chinese-Russian naval exercises in the South China Sea. These exercises will take place one month from now and go by the name “Naval Cooperation – 2016”. Russian and Chinese people being more boring than Americans, they couldn’t come up with some more cool name like “Operation Laocoön”, or something like that.
Anyhow, this upcoming joint exercise will be the sixth in a Russia-China series over the past four years; but the first time ever in the South China Sea. From the Russian side, there will be participation of no less than four ships from her Pacific Fleet. But the exact number of ships is not what is important here. What is important is that Russia and China are doing this as an “in your face” gesture of defiance to the good ole U.S.A.
Hague Bitch-Slaps China
Or rather, as rebuttal to America’s “in your face” naval exercises which took place last month. In which the U.S. and its obedient allies blatantly sailed two aircraft carriers into the Philippine Sea. Philippine’s case against China was brought in 2013 to the Hague International Arbitration Court. Philippines accused China of seizing coral reefs and building artificial islands, and lots of other bad stuff too. Everybody expected China to lose the case, which they did; but just to underscore the point the U.S. sailed the USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) into the Philippine Sea just ahead of the inevitable ruling, and as an assertion of American dominance and gunboat arbitration.
Sure enough, the five judges in the Hague Tribunal delivered a resounding bitch-slap in the face to China declaring that China has no right to build artificial islands; and that they were not the boss of the South China Sea. China lost so much face at the Hague, that they had to think about joining a leper colony. Quoting the New York Times piece I just linked, “In its most significant finding, the tribunal rejected China’s argument that it enjoys historic rights over most of the South China Sea. That could give the governments of Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam more leverage in their own maritime disputes with Beijing.” It goes without saying that China refused to participate in the courtroom proceedings, which they regarded as a kangaroo court; and huffily announced afterwards that they would not abide by the ruling.
Anxious to reassert its historical hegemony, China has formed a …. well, they won’t call it an “alliance” because that is too strong a word …. with Russia. It’s more like Russia and China have a common enemy. Or a common thorn in the side. Who might that be? America – duh!
If the Americans had learned to play nice with at least one other person, then they wouldn’t have forced these two regional powers into each other’s arms. But no… America has been all over the place, with a policy of containing Russia in Europe; and China in Asia. Of which the latter is considered more strategically important by the Big Brainiacs in Washington D.C. In fact, the spread of American hegemony into the whole Pacific region has become the official goal of American foreign policy.
Akopov goes on to reiterate, that the U.S. has always been a Pacific power, and in fact after WWII became the dominant Pacific power in Asia. It was precisely in this region that America conducted two major wars after 1945: first in Korea, and then in Vietnam. In the first of which, in fact, U.S. troops fought directly against the Chinese army. An experience which scared the bejesus out of them. Since then, the Americans, in their typical “anaconda” type strategy have gradually built up a delineating Arc of Be-smotherment stretching from South Korea and Japan across Taiwan and the Philippines to Singapore. This arc is for the containment of China. American bases cover China’s Eastern coast and prevent Chinese expansion to the South. Into Southeast Asia. Into the very direction whither China, since the time of the Hans, instinctively, like a lemming, strives.
Not that China has any designs on annexing its Southern neighbors. Oh no, it’s just that China considers these neighbors to be part of its regional and economic sphere of influence. These neighbors share a cultural and even ethnic heritage (having many ethnic Chinese in the various diasporas). When European colonizers arrived in this area, the first thing they did was to occupy Southeast Asia, cut it off from China, and then attempted to colonize China herself. China is still in the slow-motion process of rewinding that painful history. But for the U.S. it is key to maintain what is left of the “colonizer” status quo. Without Southeast Asia in its pocket, the U.S. cannot possibly maintain its status as a world hegemon.
[to be continued]
UPDATE AND ERRATA on August 7:
Per the comment of one of my readers, Ryan, who is a specialist in the history of this region, I made a substantial update to the entire paragraph following Chang’s bellicose remarks. In fact, I removed an entire bit about China’s dispute with Japan. China does have a dispute with Japan, over a different set of islands, but that is separate from the main topic in this piece, which is China’s dispute over a set of islands in the South China Sea, and involves a different set of neighbors.