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Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy

Paramilitary policemen hold weapons as they provide security near the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Paramilitary policemen hold weapons as they provide security near the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

By J.R. Wu
June 4, 2016

TAIPEI (Reuters) – On the anniversary of China’s bloody crackdown on student-led protests in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square, Taiwan’s new president told China on Saturday that democracy is nothing to fear.

Tsai Ing-wen said in a Facebook post on the 27th anniversary that Taiwan could serve as an example to China.

Tsai said in the run-up to Taiwan’s elections earlier this year that she had seen people from China, as well as the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau, mixing with crowds in Taiwan.

“These many friends, after experiencing things for themselves can see that in fact there’s nothing scary about democracy. Democracy is a good and fine thing,” wrote Tsai, who took office last month.

China sent in tanks to break up the demonstrations on June 4, 1989. Beijing has never released a death toll but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

The subject remains all but taboo in China, where President Xi Jinping is overseeing a broad crackdown on rights groups and activists.

Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy Above, a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016.   REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.

Taiwan tells China not to fear democracy Above, a flag-raising ceremony at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China June 4, 2016. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj.

Tsai also said in her Facebook post about the Tiananmen crackdown’s anniversary that nobody could deny the material advances China had made under the Communist Party.

However, China would win even more respect internationally if it gave its people even more rights, wrote Tsai, who is from Taiwan’s pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party.

Taiwan is the only part of the Chinese-speaking world which holds free elections, and Tsai risks upsetting Beijing with her frank remarks on Tiananmen.

China has never renounced the use of force to bring what it views as a wayward province under its control and is deeply suspicious of Tsai. Chinese officials have accused her of pushing the island towards formal independence.

In Beijing, security was tight at Tiananmen Square, with long lines at bag and identity checks. The square itself was peaceful, with hundreds of tourists stopping to take photos in the early summer sun.

While most state media made no mention of the sensitive anniversary, the English version of popular Beijing-based tabloid the Global Times wrote in a commentary that people in China had put the events of 1989 behind them.

“The annual hubbub around the June 4 incident is nothing but bubbles that are doomed to burst.”

China dismissed a statement by the U.S. Department of State on the political turbulence in 1989, urging the United States not to harm bilateral ties, the official Xinhua news service reported.

Tsai said Taiwan understood the pain caused by Tiananmen because Taiwan had similar experiences in its struggle for democracy, referring to repression under the martial law enforced by the Nationalists over the island from 1949 to 1987.

“I’m not here to give advice about the political system on the other side of the Taiwan Strait, but am willing to sincerely share Taiwan’s democratic experience,” she said.

In Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 and is the only place on Chinese soil where June 4 commemorations are tolerated, around 125,000 people attended the main candlelight vigil in Victoria Park, according to organizers’ estimates, which local broadcaster RTHK said was the lowest attendance since 2008.

The police estimated attendance at 21,800.

In a sign of persistent tensions around Hong Kong’s future and its relationship to mainland China, an activist shouting for Hong Kong independence tried to rush the stage at the vigil.

A number of university students boycotted the main vigil and instead held separate on-campus events discussing the city’s current political situation instead of just commemorating the events of 1989.

Reuters estimated about 2,000 people attended events at local universities.

Pro-Beijing groups cordoned off areas near Victoria Park where they set up mainland Chinese flags and shredded yellow umbrellas to symbolize Hong Kong’s 2014 street protests that called for democratic reforms but failed to achieve them.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Additional reporting by Faith Hung, and Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, Venus Wu, Teenie Ho, Tris Pan, Sue-Lin Wong, Hera Poon, Joyce Zhou and Clare Baldwin in HONG KONG; Editing by Paul Tait and Hugh Lawson)

Next read these analyses by Jonathan Manthorpe:

Hong Kong activists split over Tiananmen Square

For the first time, Hong Kong’s Federation of Students, a coalition of student unions, will not take part in the Victoria Park demonstrations. Instead, it will help organize a number of events and demonstrations confronting democracy and even independence in Hong Kong’s future.

DPP Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai gives a speech during a news conference to promote her campaign for the 2016 presidential election in TaipeiBeijing tests mettle of Taiwan’s Iron Lady President

Since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in January, the Chinese regime of Xi Jinping has done everything it can to inflame cross-strait relations by goading her into making an outraged response. Tsai, who was inaugurated President of the island nation of 23 million people on May 20, has refused to react in the way Beijing wants.

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Beijing tests mettle of Taiwan’s Iron Lady President

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
May 28, 2016

A television in a sales showroom features Taiwan's Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen during a televised political debate in Taipei, Taiwan, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

A television in a sales showroom features Taiwan’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen during a televised political debate in Taipei, Taiwan, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Olivia Harris

Since Tsai Ing-wen was elected president of Taiwan in January, the Chinese regime of Xi Jinping has done everything it can to inflame cross-strait relations by goading her into making an outraged response.

Tsai, who was inaugurated President of the island nation of 23 million people on May 20, has refused to react in the way Beijing wants. She is far too experienced a politician, especially in dealing with the slippery fish in Beijing, to be easily trapped into saying things that can be use against her, especially with Taiwan’s indispensable ally, Washington.

Xi and his boys certainly didn’t plan it this way, but all that their bully tactics in the last four months have done is reinforce what ought to have been evident to everyone for many years.

The relations between Taiwan and China are not a threat to regional security because Taiwan’s people want to keep their status as an independent country. They are a threat because of the imperialist instincts of the Beijing regime, which, without any historic, legal, moral or political justification, claims to own the island and its people.

The friction in this fault line in Asian security is growing not because Tsai and her pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) won for the first time both the presidential and parliamentary elections in January.

The tectonic plates are grinding because Xi in Beijing is a belligerent and vengeful autocrat who is trying to use manufactured patriotism to divert public attention from the economic, social and political failures of his regime.

Beijing has sneered and questioned the sincerity of Tsai’s commitments to maintain stable relations with China; statements made in both her victory speech in January and at her inauguration a week ago.

A major reason a clear majority of Taiwan’s voters elected Tsai and the DPP was the party’s pledge to revive the economy and lessen its dependence on trade with China. But within hours of Taiwan’s election day Beijing made it clear it intends to use every weapon in its arsenal to foil the new government’s efforts to rebuild the island’s economy. This crass and indefensible attack on the internal affairs of a foreign country has continued Beijing’s bile is not just institutional. It has shown it can and will abduct Taiwanese citizens anywhere and at any time it chooses.

The personal attacks on Tsai have become more and more pointed. A few days ago a senior Beijing official responsible for China’s relations with Taiwan wrote in state-controlled media that Tsai is not fit to lead a government because she is a women, and therefore temperamentally unsuited to the task.

In fact, there are few elected leaders around today who have come to office with as many accomplishments or essential experience as does Tsai. She is a lawyer who got her first degree at Taiwan’s National University, went on to do a masters degree at Cornell and gained her doctorate at the London School of Economics. On her return to Taiwan she taught law for several years before being spotted as one of the brightest and best of her generation by then-President Lee Tung-hui of the Kuomintang party. Lee was the island’s first Taiwanese president and also the first directly elected leader. In the 1990s Tsai worked for him both as a national security adviser and as a drafter of China policy. She also negotiated Taiwan’s entry in 2000 into the World Trade Organization.

When the DPP’s Chen Shui-bian won the presidency in 2000, Tsai became the main adviser on relations with China. This marked Tsai’s transition to political commitment to the DPP. She has been through the political mill, running unsuccessfully both for mayor of New Taipei, and for president, before her victory in January.

She has a wealth of political, economic, diplomatic and administrative experience.

Tsai has taken some risk in the very measured statements she has made about her approach to cross-Strait relations. Tsai has repeated that she wants to maintain the status quo in relations with Beijing and that she will respect the agreements made by the previous Kuomintang government of Ma Ying-jeou with China.

This has been disappointing for many of her supporters, who want to call Beijing’s bluff and move to have the reality of their independence recognized internationally.

But Tsai’s measured caution is not enough for Beijing. It has ranted against the “ambiguity” of her statements. In particular, Beijing officials have railed against her for not explicitly recognizing the so-called “1992 Consensus.” In this agreement Taipei and Beijing said there is “One China,” but without saying what that entailed. For Taipei it meant there is one China, but Taiwan is not part of it. For Beijing it means Taiwan is a renegade province and should submit to China’s sovereignty or risk military invasion.

Tsai comes to office with an ambitious five-point plan to revive Taiwan’s economy and enhance the island’s social structure.

Taiwan has a formidable international reputation for high-tech innovation. But in recent decades Taiwanese companies have followed the international trend and moved their manufacturing and assembly operations to China. Tsai wants to reverse this and to encourage development of new specializations in such areas as biotechnology that are not dependent on supply chains involving China

In the same vein, she wants to lessen Taiwan’s dependence on exports to China by expanding the island’s reach into the Southeast Asian and Indian markets. Tsai is also intent on seeking membership in the U.S.-led, 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, which includes the 10 countries of Southeast Asia, China, India and Japan.

Her problem is that Beijing has a long history of using its economic muscle to blackmail other countries not to admit Taiwan to trade or other international organizations without China’s agreement.

Beijing has made it clear it intends to continue its economic warfare against Taiwan. Soon after the DPP’s election victory Beijing announced it was cutting the number of Chinese tourists allowed to visit the island. This did not have the desired effect, as many Taiwanese breathed a sigh of relief. The Chinese visitors have become notorious for their ill manners and arrogance, just as they have in Hong Kong, where the administration had to plead with Beijing to cut the visa quotas so as to avoid a serious backlash against the tourists.

In Taiwan, Chinese tourists had swarmed famous attractions like Sun Moon Lake and the Taroko Gorge in such numbers that local visitors have been driven out. And in the National Palace Museum the ill manners and discourtesy of the Chinese tourists reached the level where museum staff found it necessary to post dozens of notices with information about how to behave in a public place.

If Beijing’s tourist gambit misfired, another ploy did not. Taiwan has formal diplomatic relations with only 21 countries. Most nations have downgraded their diplomatic representation in Taipei as the price of having full bilateral relations with Beijing. Several small countries, however, found regularly switching diplomatic relations between Taiwan and China was a very profitable business. During his eight-years in office former Taiwan President Ma negotiated an unofficial end to this “dollar diplomacy.” But in March, the small African state of Gambia, which had previously recognized Taiwan, announced it was establishing diplomatic relations with Beijing. This move clearly came after pressure from China and is undoubtedly intended as a warning to Taipei that Beijing will step up its efforts to enforce Taiwan’s diplomatic isolation.

There was an even nastier example of Beijing’s vengeful nature in April, when Kenya was persuaded to force 45 Taiwanese on to planes to China. The 45 had been implicated in a fraudulent telemarketing scheme aimed at China. All were tried in Kenya and most acquitted. But China told the Nairobi government it wanted the Taiwanese, claiming they are Chinese citizens. Kenya herded the first batch of eight Taiwanese onto a China-bound plane on April 8. When another 28 Taiwanese, being held in jail, heard what had happened they barricaded themselves in their cells, Kenyan police stormed the prison and took the prisoners to the airport.

Taipei accused China of “extrajudicial abduction,” but Beijing insists it has the right to detain and try the Taiwanese.

Beijing’s abuse has also been aimed directly at Tsai. A long and thorough assessment of her was published this week in the International Herald Leader, a subsidiary of the state-controlled Xinhua news agency. The article was written by Wang Weixing, a council member of the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait, Beijing’s arms-length organization for dealing unofficially with Taipei. Wang is also head of the foreign military studies department of the People’s Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences.

What caught contemptuous international attention this week was that half way through the essay Wang comments that “as a politician who is single, Tsai is unencumbered by feelings of love, and is without constraints of a family or the need to care for children, her political style and action strategy commonly incline toward emotionalism, individualism and extremism.”

The article concludes that “Tsai Ing-wen’s personality is clearly two-faced.”

While the reaction has focused on Wang’s misogyny, his overall judgement on Tsai should give Beijing cause for concern. He described a very tough, determined and experienced person who will not be easily manipulated by Beijing and who is a formidable opponent.

For Tsai, her major day-to-day problem will be satisfying the expectations of the people who voted for her and the DPP. In 2014 thousands of mostly young Taiwanese occupied the parliament, the Legislative Yuan, to block an expanded free trade deal with China planned by the Ma administration. The protesters succeeded, but also established that as well as being deeply suspicious of economic relations with China, young Taiwanese are confident of their own identity and are increasingly frustrated that their nationhood is not internationally recognized.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016
Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Correction, May 30:  Tsai Ing-wen ran for mayor of New Taipei, not Taipei, as stated in the original column. New Taipei was called Taipei County until 2010 and is in fact the large area around downtown Taipei, the capital.

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Links:

Translation of Tsai Ing-wen profile, by Wang Weixing, International Herald Leader, a subsidiary of the state-controlled Xinhua news agency: http://solidaritytw.tumblr.com/post/144997215206/aratspla-officials-contentious-tsai-ing-wen

You might also enjoy these Jonathan Manthorpe columns:

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Taiwan set to complete the transition to democracy

Taiwan has surged over the hump of its 35-year voyage from a military-ruled, one-party state to one of the most successful and vibrant democracies in Asia.

Party dissent in China as time for a new mandate for Xi nears

China’s leader Xi Jinping is facing serious criticism from within the ruling Communist Party as the time approaches when he must be reconfirmed as party boss and the country’s president. Since being selected by the party at the end of 2012 for China’s two top posts, Xi has raised hackles by using an anti-corruption drive to remove his political rivals, fostering an unseemly cult of personality, ramping up censorship and suppressing of dissent, and grasping more personal power than any leader since Mao Zedong.

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Jan. 15, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts a live fire gunnery exercise with its 5-inch .54-caliber gun. Curtis Wilbur is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson, Public DomaineChina’s island building in defence of nuclear missile submarines

China’s island building in the South China Sea shows the challenges awaiting America’s next president. Forget the Islamic State group and the quagmire of the Middle East. Asia and the confrontation with China is where the real threat to North American interests lie. Indeed, the situation is fast approaching something that looks strikingly similar to the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Riot police arrests a protester after a clash at Mongkok district in Hong Kong, China February 9, 2016. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

REUTERS/Bobby Yip

Familiarity with China breeds contempt in Hong Kong

The only surprise in the Monday night clashes between Hong Kong police and demonstrators demanding self-rule is that it hasn’t happened before.  In all likelihood the Mong Kok riots herald increasingly violent clashes as Hongkongers vent their frustrations with Beijing’s refusal to keep its promises of political reform and the steady erosion of the territory’s freedoms. The Chinese government has only itself to blame for the alienation of Hong Kong’s seven million people.

Beijing bristles as Taiwan prepares to elect pro-independence opposition

Taiwan’s voters are preparing for a rocky ride as they appear set to elect an opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration dedicated to preserving the independence of the island and its 23 million people. If the voters in next year’s presidential election do what they are now telling pollsters they intend, the result will excite anger in Beijing and send a frisson of anxiety through the corridors of power in Washington.

Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

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China’s island building in defence of nuclear missile submarines

“China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea, and you’d have to believe in the flat Earth to think otherwise” —  Adm. Harry Harris

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Jan. 15, 2016)  The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts a live fire gunnery exercise with its 5-inch .54-caliber gun. Curtis Wilbur is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson, Public Domaine

SOUTH CHINA SEA (Jan. 15, 2016) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) conducts a live fire gunnery exercise with its 5-inch .54-caliber gun. Curtis Wilbur is on patrol in the 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt.j.g. Jonathan Peterson, Public Domain

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
February 26, 2016

Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia/Wikimedia commons

It has been a long and expensive quest, but Beijing has now found a way out of Washington’s straightjacket aimed at blocking China from becoming an imperial power.

For the last 30 years or more, the barrier to China being able to project naval power into the Pacific and Indian oceans has been the control by the United States and its allies of the chain of islands and archipelagos stretching from northern Japan to the Philippines. This “first island chain” has effectively hemmed in Beijing’s navy by keeping eagle eyes on its every move.

Now Beijing has found a way around that barrier by first claiming sovereignty over most of the South China Sea, and now constructing islands with military installations and airstrips in maritime territory claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei.

When Beijing first began making claims to own 90 per cent of the South China Sea, claims that clearly had no legal or historical merit, the immediate calculation was that China lusted after the submarine oil and natural gas reserves, and the abundant fish stocks. The claim has generated strong push-back from Washington, which insists on the right of free passage across the sea, which carries some 25 per cent of global maritime trade worth over $5 trillion each year.

But the massive program in the last two years of dredging, island building, and military construction on previously untenable shoals and islets right down to Indonesia – about 1,200 kilometres from Chinese territory – has put a whole different complexion on this enterprise. Admiral Harry Harris, commander of the U.S. forces in the Pacific, this week told America’s House Armed Services Committee that China has created more than 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of artificial land in the last two years. At least half a dozen of the man-made islands have military bases, most with airstrips, and at least one is home to a squadron of fighter aircraft.

“China is clearly militarizing the South China Sea, and you’d have to believe in the flat Earth to think otherwise,” said Adm. Harris. The admiral added that in order to match China’s increasingly capable naval and air power the U.S. needs “weapons systems of increased lethality that go faster, go further and are more survivable.” He said he is only able to deploy 62 per cent of the attack submarine patrols he needs to be sure of keeping the Chinese forces under control.

A key piece of the puzzle of deciphering Beijing’s intentions came this week with the discovery that China had built a high-frequency radar station on Cuarteron Reef, in the Spratly Islands and midway between southern Vietnam and Malaysia’s Borneo states. Cuarteron Reef is about 1,000 kilometres (600 miles) from the nearest undisputed Chinese territory at Hainan Island.

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Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. U.S. Navy photo, Public Domain

Chinese dredging vessels in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. U.S. Navy photo, Public Domain

The supposition is that China is preparing to enforce an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over the whole of the South China Sea. It has already done this in the East China Sea as a tactical move in its spurious claim to Japan’s Senkaku Islands.

What is emerging is that Beijing is constructing a network of military bastions in the South China Sea to protect its base for its fleet of nuclear missile armed submarines at the southern tip of Hainan Island. The base at Yulin is in massive caves constructed in the sea cliffs and is capable, according to U.S. and Indian intelligence estimates, of housing 20 Type 094, or Jin Class submarines, each carrying 12 intercontinental ballistic missiles. The nuclear missile submarines, known as SSBNs, are able to leave and return to the base submerged, making it hard to spot them from U.S. patrol aircraft or spy satellites.

By taking military control of the South China Sea and attempting to cow the other littoral states, Beijing is trying to ensure it can deploy its SSBNs into the Pacific and Indian oceans without them being detected by the U.S. and its allies.

The South China Sea offers several deepwater passages into the Western Pacific, the major one being the Luzon Strait between Taiwan and the Philippines. But there are others between the Philippines and Malaysia and Indonesia. To get to the Indian Ocean remains more of a problem. The most direct route is through the Malacca Strait, which is well guarded by Washington’s ally, Singapore. To cut the number of times its warships have to transit the Malacca Strait choke point, Beijing has sought port visit privileges, including for its submarines, with Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

China’s naval ambitions are alarming several of its neighbours and driving them into the arms of the U.S. Much to Washington’s delight, China’s rampant military expansion has given Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, the reason he wanted to water down the country’s “pacifist constitution,” imposed after the Second World War. The re-interpretations and amendments to the constitution allow Japanese forces to play a far more assertive role in partnership with allies.

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand and even old enemy Vietnam are boosting their military relations with Washington as a bulwark against what looks to them like Beijing’s dream of imperial expansion. However, Beijing has been clever at exerting divide-and-rule pressure among the 10 countries of South East Asia. China has used its economic and political muscle on Laos and Cambodia in particular to ensure that the countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have been unable to develop a common front against Beijing. U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the ASEAN leaders at a landmark summit in California on February 15 and 16. The hope was to develop a united front on the South China Sea issue, and to solidifying economic ties as the group forms a common market modelled on the European Union, and as the Trans- Pacific Partnership free trade agreement approaches completion. Progress on the economic issues was solid, but less so on political matters.

The mere fact that the summit happened underlines the reality that Asia and the growing confrontation with China will loom ever larger on the radar screen of whomever takes over the White House from Obama. It is to be hoped that when the U.S. votes later this year its citizens have in mind the real challenges for the next president. Forget the Islamic State group and the quagmire of the Middle East. Asia and the confrontation with China is where the real threat to North American interests lie. Indeed, the situation is fast approaching something that looks strikingly similar to the Cold War with the Soviet Union.

Washington’s attack submarines are already engaged with the Chinese navy in “The Hunt for Red October” cat-and-mouse games they used to play with the Soviets under the North Atlantic. Those tensions will only increase as Beijing tightens controls over the sea-lanes to Hainan Island and deploys more and more nuclear missile SSBNs.

The situation is all the more dangerous because Beijing’s belligerence is a sign of the weakness of the regime. Weak regimes make mistakes.

Since it gave up the spiritual draw of communism three decades ago, the Chinese regime has relied almost totally on economic growth for its political legitimacy. That period has come to an end because the ruling Communist Party refuses to make the fundamental political and administrative reforms necessary for the economy to move forward. Those reforms require the party to give up its exclusive hold on power by accepting such things as the rule of law, and effective oversight of the administration. Instead, the party appears ready to go down with the ship rather than plug the leaks and repair the engine while there is still time.

To keep itself afloat, the Communist Party under President Xi Jinping is using two lifeboats. One is a massive expansion of authoritarianism. Chinese people have not been subject to the same kind of repression and restrictions since the days of Mao Zedong. And Xi is nothing if not an equal opportunity dictator. Foreign non-governmental organizations and even foreign companies investing in China are finding their China operations under increasing restrictions and bans.

Xi’s other lifeline is that age-old last refuge of a scoundrel: nationalism. Since he came to power as Communist Party boss and President over the winter of 2012, Xi has pursued an assertive and sometimes aggressive foreign policy aimed at convincing China’s 1.3 billion citizens that they belong to a powerful nation whose footsteps make the ground shake and other nations tremble. His first efforts were to goad Japan, China’s historic enemy. This was an obvious target because Chinese schoolchildren are indoctrinated at an early age with hatred of the Japanese, even though it was Japanese investment and technology that has made China’s “economic miracle” possible.

But supplanting the U.S. as the arbiter of peace and security in Asia has become Xi’s dream for China.

What we are seeing now has developed from another of Beijing’s imperial territorial ambitions; to take possession of the island nation of Taiwan and its 23 million people. But the U.S. has domestic legislation requiring it to aid the defence of Taiwan if the island is attacked. Thus for about 25 years China’s military planners have worked on the premise that in order to successfully invade Taiwan, they must first be able to deter or defeat any rescue bid by U.S. forces.

China’s building of a large fleet of attack submarines — now thought to number over 60 – is a major element in trying to make the seas unsafe for U.S. warships. Even more effective and a lot cheaper has been China’s development of a whole range of anti-ship missiles, which make elements like U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups very vulnerable.

The Chinese military planners could not go very far down this road, of course, before having to take into account that both China and the U.S. are nuclear powers. China insists it would never be the first to use nuclear weapons, though only useful fools, fellow travellers and agents of influence would believe that pledge to be of any real value. But China’s problem is that if it were to be attacked by nuclear weapons, it has not had a serious second-strike capability. This phrase will be familiar to those who lived through the Cold War, but what it means is the ability to deter a nuclear attack because the enemy will know for sure you will have enough nuclear weapons that survive to be able to strike back.

China has worked hard to remove this weakness by making its nuclear weapons highly mobile and building safe sanctuaries for them in mountainsides. The most effective second-strike nuclear weapons, however, are on ballistic missiles in SSBN submarines. The dream of Chinese military planners has been to ensure the U.S. will never attack them with nuclear weapons because the Pentagon will know that lurking somewhere in the waters off California or New England are Chinese SSBNs.

When China first started developing SSBNs they were part of the Northern Fleet and based at Xiaopingdao in the Bohai Gulf. The problem with this location was that in order to go on patrol the submarines had to go through the shallow waters of the Yellow Sea, where they could be detected by the U.S. and ally South Korea. The other route was to go through the East China Sea, which is also shallow, and to risk detection by the Americans and Japanese allies on the Ryukyu Islands.

Hence the move to Yulin on Hainan and the push to turn the islets and reefs of the South China Sea into a network of bastions to protect the base.

Washington and its allies will now have to try to check Beijing’s South China Sea move, unless, of course, the U.S. administration is prepared to see itself overshadowed in Asia and its allies put at risk of Beijing’s tantrums.

Adm. Harris said this week he wants more submarines and better weapons to be able to keep the Chinese in check. Another development already underway is much closer military relations between Washington and Manila. This is essential if effective surveillance of the Luzon Strait is to be maintained. That will also require closer co-ordination with the Taiwanese military. It will probably work in Washington’s favour that Tsai Ing-wen has been elected President of Taiwan at the head of a majority Democratic Progressive Party government. The previous government of President Ma Ying-jeou, the Kuomintang whose ideology was dominated by Chinese who fled to the island in 1949 when the communists captured China, was far too interested in creeping into favour with Beijing to be trustworthy. Tsai and her party are dedicated to maintaining Taiwan’s independence, and can be expected to see a stronger partnership with the U.S. as a guarantee of that hope.

Other U.S. allies in Asia are beefing up their navies in order to be effective partners. Australia, for example, this week published a defence white paper envisaging a large increase in its air, land and sea forces, including 12 submarines and nine anti-submarine frigates. This move is bold because China has become Australia’s largest trade partner, especially as a buyer before the latest recession of Australian natural resources.

A Chinese government spokesman said Beijing regretted the Australian plans, which she said reflected “a Cold War mentality.”  She may be right, because that seems to be the appropriate frame of mind.

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2016

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Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com. Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

References and further information:

Watch:  U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon flies over new islands in South China Sea — U.S. Navy video

Watch: Asia Maritime Transparence Initiative, Center for Strategic & International Studies video

 

 

From F&O Archives:

China’s war for Asian domination going well, JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
April 2, 2015

China manufactures islands to back its sovereignty claims. JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
September 10, 2014

Beijing takes another major step to control the South China Sea, JONATHAN MANTHORPE, International Affairs, May 23, 2014

Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and relies on the honour system: enjoy one free story. If you value independent, no-spam, no-ads,expert journalism, support us with a minimum of .27 per story, a $1 day site pass, or $20 per year. Donate below. Details here.

 

Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

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Taiwan frontrunner says she wouldn’t provoke China

By Reuters
January, 2106

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan’s opposition leader and presidential frontrunner said she would not provoke China when seeking ways to engage with the island’s giant neighbour.

“I will make the greatest efforts to seek mutually acceptable interaction between Taiwan and mainland China,” Tsai Ing-wen, chairwoman of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), told a national audience on live television on Jan. 8. “I will not be provocative, there will not be surprises.”

Tsai and two rivals for the presidency were giving their third and final policy statements a week before Taiwan votes for a new president and parliament on Jan. 16.

She has trodden carefully in discussing how she will engage China if, as expected, the DPP wins power. The party has historically favoured the island’s formal independence and says it believes only Taiwan’s people can decide its future.

Beijing, which has never renounced the use of force to bring what it deems a renegade province under its control, takes this to mean the DPP wants formal independence from China. It will be watching the election outcome closely.

Defeated Nationalist forces fled to Taiwan after losing the Chinese civil war with the Communists in 1949.

Relations have improved rapidly since Ma Ying-jeou of the Nationalist party became Taiwan president in 2008, and the two sides have signed a series of landmark trade and tourism deals.

Tsai said the DPP advocates “active diplomacy” and will seek greater cooperation with other countries. Taiwan’s diplomacy cannot rely on China’s goodwill, she said.

“Of course, we attach great importance to the peaceful development of cross-strait relations,” she said, referring to the Taiwan Strait, the body of water that separates the two sides. “But if our diplomatic relations is subject to China’s goodwill, we will lose the autonomy of our diplomacy.”

Tsai is one of three presidential contenders, which also include Eric Chu, chairman of the ruling Nationalist party, and James Soong, chairman of the People First Party.

Copyright Reuters 2016

(Reporting by J.R. Wu; Editing by Catherine Evans)

Related on F&O:

Taiwan set to complete the transition to democracy, by Jonathan Manthorpe, F&O International Affairs columnist

Taiwan is set to surge over the hump of its 35-year voyage from a military-ruled, one-party state, to one of the most successful and vibrant democracies in Asia.

 

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Taiwan set to complete the transition to democracy

JONATHAN MANTHORPE: International Affairs
January 16, 2016 (Updated)

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen gives a speech during a news conference to promote her campaign for the 2016 presidential election in Taipei, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen gives a speech during a news conference to promote her campaign for the 2016 presidential election in Taipei, January 8, 2016. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Taiwan has surged over the hump of its 35-year voyage from a military-ruled, one-party state to one of the most successful and vibrant democracies in Asia.

Tsai Ing-wen, 59, leader of the opposition Democratic Progressive Party, and a highly skilled and experienced politician and diplomat, won a solid victory in Saturday’s national election, taking 56 per cent of the vote in a three-candidate race.

This was sweet redemption for the woman who lost badly in the 2012 election, when President Ma Ying-jeou, leader of the Kuomintang (KMT) won a second term in power on promises of economic revival that failed to materialize.

But probably more significant on Saturday, the DPP for the first time won a majority in the island nation’s parliament, the Legislative Yuan. The DPP took 68 of the 113 seats in the Legislature, the first time the KMT has lost control of parliament since it took over the island in 1945.

Also noteworthy, while Greater Asia has had many woman leaders, Tsai is the first to win power entirely on her own merit. All the others have been propelled to power by public affection for a dead or exiled male relative.

Tsai’s credentials are solid. She got a law degree from the National Taiwan University in 1978, went on to get a masters degree in law at Cornell University in the United States and followed that with a doctorate in law at the London School of Economics in Britain.

She is thus the most worldly-wise senior figure the often parochial DPP has produced. On her return to Taiwan she began work as a law professor. However, in the early 1990s her acumen and global view were recognized by the ruling Kuomintang party (KMT). Tsai worked as a key government negotiator on Taiwan’s entry into the World Trade Organization. She was then transferred into the office of KMT President Lee Tung-hui as a national security advisor.

Although she worked for the KMT, Tsai’s political instincts were more aligned with the opposition DPP. When the DPP won the presidency in 2000, Tsai was hired for the prickly and demanding job of running the Mainland Affairs Council, which deals with the government’s relations with China.

Even American diplomats, worried the DPP administration would cause trouble with China, were impressed by her skills. One leaked United States diplomatic cable said: “Her low-key personality may also disarm her competitors, who would do well not to underestimate her.” Another cable described Tsai as being “viewed as extremely capable and very persuasive.” She has “impressive economic experience,” the cable continued, and is “a tenacious negotiator.”

The DPP winning control of the Legislative Yuan will likely herald a sea change in the often-tortuous transition for the island nation of 23 million people. It could allow for desperately needed constitutional reform. Taiwan’s current constitution and political structure was designed to govern China in the 1940s and has often been described has having the worst elements of both the United States and French systems.

Supporters of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen wait in front of her poster before a campaign rally starts for the 2016 presidential election in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

Supporters of Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Chairperson and presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen wait in front of her poster before a campaign rally starts for the 2016 presidential election in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan, January 7, 2016. REUTERS/Pichi Chuang

The building of a political structure to fit modern Taiwan would be a turning point in the challenging odyssey the islanders have faced for over 70 years. It has been a stormy ride from the “White Terror” of repression in the 1950s, 60s and 70s under the colonial-style rule of the Chinese KMT to the growth of representative and accountable government in the last 25 years.

Indeed, this election could mark the beginning of the end for the KMT as the dominant force in Taiwanese politics. The party’s presidential candidate, Eric Chu, won 31 pere cent of the popular vote. The third candidate, James Soong, got a better-than-expected 13 per cent.

Chu, sensibly, has only taken a leave of absence from his job as mayor of New Taipei City, the suburban reach north of the capital. He has a desk to go back to on Monday morning. And Chu was brought in mid-way through the campaign after the first KMT candidate was so appalling her support failed to reach double figures.

The loss of control of the Legislative Yuan for the KMT would probably be the trip wire to oblivion. Keeping control of parliament when the DPP first won the presidency between 2000 and 2008 enabled to the KMT to foil every attempt by President Chen Sui-bian to govern. And when the KMT regained the presidency under Ma Ying-jeou in 2008, one of its first acts was to the prosecution of Chen for financial skulduggery, his conviction and imprisonment. He has only recently been released from prison on medical grounds.

The withering of the KMT, once the world’s most wealthy political party, is being accompanied by the rise of new political parties in Taiwan. These, such as the New Power Party and the environmentalist Green Party, have strong followings among Taiwan’s ever-increasing cohorts of young voters who have come of age since the political uprising in 1979 – two generations ago – began the transition to democracy.

Young Taiwanese have little interest in the identity politics that have dogged the island since China’s warlord leader and KMT boss, Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek and the remnants of his defeated army, fled to Taiwan in 1949. The insistence by Chiang and many of his KMT successors that Taiwan is part of China has never sat well with the islanders. One-party military dictatorship and the brutal quashing of all expressions of independence were Chiang’s responses.

But modern Taiwanese have won the identity contest. They know they are an independent, distinct people and are comfortable in their own skins. Their only interest in relations with China is as a business opportunity. It was outgoing KMT President Ma’s promise in the 2008 campaign to improve political, and therefore economic relations with China that got him elected. His signing of a basic free trade agreement with Beijing in 2010 and the hauling down of several barriers to trade that had existed since the Communists came to power in 1949 won Ma re-election in 2012.

Since then, however, the chickens have come home to roost. Taiwanese have found that free trade with China means that only the island’s already wealthy business elite benefited and have become even more rich. Meanwhile the standard of living of Taiwan’s middle class has stagnated, jobs have fled to China, and Beijing’s state-owned investment houses are casting lascivious eyes over the island’s world-class high-technology industries.

Ma’s approval rating plummeted to near single figures soon after his re-election and has hardly stirred since.

When in 2014, Ma’s administration tried to bulldoze through the Legislative Yuan an expanded trade pact with China, thousands of young Taiwanese occupied the parliament building for nearly a month. The protesters, in what became known as the Sunflower Movement, contended the new deal would leave Taiwan dangerously vulnerable to Chinese economic imperialism. The government was forced to back down and the KMT got a drubbing in local elections later that year.

The Sunflower Movement has bred a new strain of young Taiwanese political activists focussed on economic and social justice, the enhancement of democracy and strict observance of human rights. It was members of the Sunflower Movement that founded the New Power Party (NPP), which in the future may well become a challenger to the DPP. The NPP tends to get irritated by the DPP’s equivocation over China’s very effective campaign to block most nations from recognizing Taiwan as what it is; an independent nation state. The NPP wants to push for the United Nations to recognize Taiwan as a sovereign country.

Even though this election and its results will represent a landmark coming-of-age for Taiwan, the island’s odyssey is far from over.

Always looming over Taiwan since the Communists seized power in China in 1949 is Beijing’s claim to own the island nation 180 kilometres off the South China coast. Beijing has never abandoned its threat to invade the island if Taiwan does not pledge its sovereignty to China. Much of China’s huge investment in military modernization in the last 20 years has been aimed at gaining the capacity to successfully invade Taiwan and to deter U.S. forces from coming to the islanders’ aid.

The election of Tsai and the DPP by Taiwan’s 18 million voters is a direct challenge to China’s President and Communist Party boss, Xi Jinping. Since coming to power in 2012, Xi has fomented crude and intense nationalism among Chinese as part of a strategy of maintain the Communist Party’s right to govern. To that end, Xi has pursued China’s territorial claims in the East China and South China seas, with aggressive confrontations with neighbouring states Japan, Vietnam and the Philippines.

These claims are spurious as is the one to own Taiwan. But Beijing’s claim to Taiwan is now so deeply embedded in the Communist Party canon that Xi cannot abandon it without irreparably damaging his right to rule.

The election of Tsai and the DPP will also cause some concern in Washington, where the United States is bound by 1979 legislation to aid in Taiwan’s defence if the island is attacked.

But the Americans’ cable traffic indicates that they, like others think Tsai has a safe pair of hands and that she is well able to maintain Taiwan’s integrity without goading Xi into calamitous adventures.

Tsai has always been careful in her statements about Taiwan status and its relationship with China. Beijing mistrusts her because in the late 1990s she was author of the concept of the Taipei government’s concept of a “state-to-state” relationship between Taiwan and China. Beijing insists the island is a renegade province.

She was careful in her victory statements on Saturday, saying Taiwan’s citizens have shown they expect “a government than can lead this country into the next generation and a government that is steadfast in protecting this country’s sovereignty.” Tsai said she would “work towards maintaining the status quo” in the relationship with China in order to “bring peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”

It is unlikely that Tsai will roll back the existing economic agreements with Beijing, though public disquiet will probably push her administration to try to reverse the income disparity and stunted employment opportunities created by those deals. In the same vein, Tsai probably will not encourage any new trade deals with Beijing or expansion of the old ones. Anything that smacks of a political accord with Beijing will be a non-starter.

Instead, Tsai can be expected to pursue stronger economic and political links with Taiwan’s natural allies, such as the neighbouring fellow democracies of the Far East and Southeast Asia.

Beijing, as always, will try to bully countries into limiting relations with Taiwan by threatening to close the China market to them. But Beijing’s ranting about Taiwan has become a tired and tiring refrain, and the Chinese market is not the attraction it once was.

 

Copyright Jonathan Manthorpe 2015

Jonathan Manthorpe is the author of “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Please address queries about syndication/republishing this column to jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

Related on F&O:

Taiwan frontrunner says she wouldn’t provoke China, by Reuters

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Manthorpe B&WJonathan Manthorpe is a founding columnist with Facts and Opinions and is the author of the journal’s International Affairs column. Manthorpe has been a foreign correspondent and international affairs columnist for nearly 40 years. Manthorpe’s  nomadic career began in the late 1970s as European Bureau Chief for The Toronto Star, the job that took Ernest Hemingway to Europe in the 1920s. In the mid-1980s Manthorpe became European Correspondent for Southam News. In the following years Manthorpe was sent by Southam News, the internal news agency for Canada’s largest group of metropolitan daily newspapers, to be the correspondent in Africa and then Asia. Between postings Manthorpe spent a few years based in Ottawa focusing on intelligence and military affairs, and the United Nations. Since 1998 Manthorpe has been based in Vancouver, but has travelled frequently on assignment to Asia, Europe and Latin America.

Real journalism is not free. If you value evidence-based, non-partisan, spam-free information, please support Facts and Opinions, an employee-owned collaboration of professional journalists.  Details here.

 

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

 

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Beijing reneges on Hong Kong freedom: Manthorpe column

China’s reinterpretation of its 1984 agreement with London puts a large question mark over any deal or treaty the Chinese government signs, warns International Affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe in today’s column. An excerpt:

HK_Central_Statue_Square_Legislative_Council_Building_n_Themis_s

Themis, or Lady Justice, sculpture at Hong Kong’s Central Statue Square Legislative Council Building. Photo by ChvhLR10, Wikimedia, Creative Commons licence

The Chinese government has confirmed what everyone has known for a long time: it was lying when it signed a treaty guaranteeing Hong Kong substantial autonomy, speedy progress to democracy and protection of the rule of law.

Protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong today and burned copies of a “white paper” Beijing issued on Tuesday reminding the territory’s seven million people that their institutions will only be on a loose leash so long as they are “patriotic.” In this context, that means subservience to the will of China’s ruling Communist Party.

There are profound implications in Chinese government’s publication of its position that “the high degree of autonomy of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) is not an inherent power, but one that comes solely from the authorization by the central power.”

The publication comes as pro-democracy groups in Hong Kong anticipate Beijing intends to ensure only its loyalists are eligible to be candidates for the territory’s governor, the Chief Executive, when “free” elections are introduced in 2017. Democracy groups are preparing a mass demonstration to occupy the central business district if the election rules, when they are announced in a few weeks time, contain the expected severe limitations on the process …. read more.*

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Beijing reneges on Hong Kong freedom guarantee.

 

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“Sunflower” occupation stymies China/Taiwan rapprochement

Manthorpe B&WInternational affairs analyst Jonathan Manthorpe writes in today’s column:

It was only a matter of time before the efforts by Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou to improve relations with Beijing came up against the brutal truth that the vast majority of the island’s 23 million people do not want to be part of China.

Many Taiwanese have watched with increasing unease as Ma, elected in 2008 and re-elected in 2012, has chipped away at the walls of animosity carrying over from China’s civil war in 1949 when the Kuomintang (KMT) government fled to the island after defeat by Mao Zedong’s Communists.

Ma first oversaw the establishment of direct trade and communication links between Taiwan and China. Then, in 2010, Beijing and Taipei agreed on a basic free trade pact called the Economic Co-operation and Framework Agreement (ECFA).

Ordinary Taiwanese, however, have seen little benefit from the ECFA, which many see as allowing Beijing to dominate the island’s economy in furtherance of China’s ultimate aim of taking political control of the country, by force if necessary.

The tipping point — the bridge too far across the Taiwan Strait — came on March 18 after the KMT cut off debate in parliament, the Legislative Yuan, on a bill to enact an extension of the ECFA into service sectors such as banking, publishing, health services, tourism and construction …

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China and Taiwan, head to head

A historic meeting between China and Taiwan is taking place this week. Will it become a turning point in relations between the two countries? Jonathan Manthorpe, in considering the history and political factors, is doubtful. An excerpt of his new column:

Manthorpe B&WThis week’s meeting between officials from the Chinese and Taiwanese governments is historic, but more for its symbolism than any prospect of dramatic outcomes.

For Beijing the hope is that after eight years of improving economic ties, the talks are the beginning of a political process that will see the island nation of 23 million people absorbed into China …

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Post updated to clarify timing of meeting.

 

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Analysis: China’s belligerence, Southeast Asia’s arms race, and 1914

International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the echoes of the first World War in the arms race underway in Southeast Asia.  Excerpt:

Manthorpe B&WAs China has become wealthy it has also become an expansionist power. Beijing portrays its territorial ambitions as merely the re-assertion of its sovereignty over lands that were stolen from it during the “century of humiliation” after its disastrous collision with the industrial powers starting in the 1840s.

For the most part these claims are bunk. Beijing’s loud and often belligerent claims to ownership of the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, the island nation of Taiwan, and most of the South China Sea as far as the territorial waters of Indonesia are modern fabrications of little or no merit.

At the same time, Chinese officials have studied the history of the European empires of the 18th and 19th centuries and concluded that their survival and expansion depended on the control of far-flung resources. Because of its communist and authoritarian heritage and instincts, Beijing continues to shy away from the message of the American imperium and to trust the market place to provide what is necessary to fuel its economy.

To these ends to control of territory and resources, China has in the last 20 years been pursuing the ability to project power to defend its interests. The key ingredient of this effort has been the construction of a massive and modern blue water navy, whose evident purpose is to challenge the supremacy of the U.S. navy.

It is this that carries echoes of the years leading up to 1914 and the start of the First World War.

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Manthorpe on Pacific militarization by Japan and China

Increasingly dangerous chest-thumping by Japan and China has its origins in Beijing, which fears American-led efforts to contain China, argues international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. Excerpt: 

Miyako Island, usually known as Japan’s best beach and snorkelling holiday destination, is now  on the front line of the increasingly militarised confrontation with China as Tokyo orders the deployment of anti-ship missiles to the island.

The deployment comes after weeks of aggressive naval and air force exercises by China, incursions by Chinese Coast Guard vessels into Japanese territorial waters around the disputed Senkaku Islands, and bellicose statements from both Beijing and Tokyo.

Late last month Japan threatened to shoot down any unmanned drone aircraft China flies through air space over the Senkakus Islands, which China calls the Diaoyu.

In response, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Defence said attacks on any of its surveillance drones would be “a severe provocation” amounting to “an act of war.”

Last week China accused Japan of interfering with exercises by the People’s Liberation Army Navy in the Western Pacific by tailing its fleet with warships and aircraft … read more (paywall).

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