Monthly Archives: November 2013

Free Range: Thou Shalt Not Kill

The world might want to pay close attention to the new leader of the Catholic church, I suggest in my latest Free Range column.

With his first mission statement, Pope Francis is taking his flock to war – against capitalism as it’s constructed in the 21st Century.

My column, The Pope and capitalism: “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” is here.*

*Log in to read Facts and Opinions commentary, available to subscribers or with a $1 day pass to Facts and Opinions.

 

Posted in All, Current Affairs, Gyroscope Tagged , , , , , |

America’s military’s biggest security threat

“Say what you will about the United States military, no organization on earth is more focused on maintaining its capabilities no matter what,” writes Natural Security columnist Chris Wood. “As a result, its upper echelons spend a fair amount of time considering what that ‘what’ might actually look like.”

Wood examines recent statements by United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on the biggest looming threats to America’s security — and the reaction to the threats by America’s neighbours, Canada and Mexico. Men with guns don’t even make Hagel’s list. Only Natural Security does. Read Wood’s column here.*

*Log in to read Facts and Opinions commentary, available to subscribers or with a $1 day pass to Facts and Opinions.

Posted in All, Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Say ‘Hooyah’ for Natural Defence

CHRIS WOOD: NATURAL SECURITY
Published November 30, 2013  

Say what you will about the United States military, no organization on earth is more focused on maintaining its capabilities no matter what. As a result, its upper echelons spend a fair amount of time considering what that ‘what’ might actually look like.

Recently at a conference in Halifax, Canada, the top figure in that military, United States Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, described what he and his top-brass colleagues see when they look around the globe for the biggest looming threats to America’s security. Significantly, it wasn’t men with guns.

Also instructive, for the one North American in three not living under the protection of Hagel’s military, were coincidental public statements by cabinet-rank officials in the Canadian and Mexican governments.

Hagel first. The American Defense Secretary was addressing1 the International Security Forum. It’s a wonk’s buffet of deep thinkers about war and the military held annually for the last few years in the province of Nova Scotia; a pet project of Canada’s former Minister of National Defence (and not coincidentally a Member of Parliament for the riding of Central Nova), Peter McKay. After thanking McKay for his “imagination and resourcefulness,” Hagel got down to business.

In a single sentence, he dispensed with the threats posed by instability in the Middle East, a resurgent China, global energy demand and the impact of new technologies. None of those, he told his audience, were new. History has witnessed repeated cycles of disruptive innovations, of empires rising and falling.

What “is new to the modern world,” Hagel said next, is climate change.

“Climate change does not directly cause conflict,” Hagel observed, “but it can significantly add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. Food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, more severe natural disasters … Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is a reminder of humanitarian disaster brought on by nature. And climatologists warn us of the increased probability of more destructive storms to come.”

Hagel spent the next several minutes of his speech detailing some of the ways America’s military is responding, from powering its most remote outposts of empire with solar panels, to reviewing which of its coastal defences may be overtaken by rising oceans.

And, he reminded his Canadian hosts, “Climate change is shifting the landscape in the Arctic more rapidly than anywhere else in the world.”

I say ‘reminded’, because Canada’s government seems strangely oblivious to the evidence accumulating on its northern doorstep. From disrupted synchronicities of animal migration and food-plant maturity, to collapsing landscapes where one-time perma- frost has defrosted, Canada’s north is changing with the pressing urgency of a spring freshet.

A government led by reality would, like the U.S. military, be looking hard at where these changes point—at the whats they imply as rising threats. And like the Pentagon, it would already be trying very hard to contain those threats by limiting the change in climate.

Gavin's Mexican windmills

Windmills near Juchitan de Zaragoza, Oaxaca, Mexico. Photo by Gavin Kennedy © Copyright 2013

Which brings us to the study in contrasts provided in the same week by two of Hagel’s cabinet-level peers: Canadian Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq, and Mexican Secretary of the Environment Juan José Guerra Abud.

Aglukkaq, who represents the Arctic riding of Nunavut, appears to be the only northerner not to have noticed how different the weather is lately in her region; she has equivocated in public about whether she believes in anthropogenic climate change. Last week, she became the fifth Canadian environment minister in eight years of Conservative government to put off,2  yet again, the release of repeatedly promised regulations to cap or reduce carbon pollution by the oil and gas industry—the country’s fastest-rising source of climate-changing emissions.

While the Arctic may be setting the pace of global climate change — in everyone’s assessment but Aglukkaq’s — Mexico faces its own challenges. Both of its coasts are rebuilding from record hurricane strikes this past summer — of the very kind that Hagel warned his audience are becoming more destructive. Forecasts predict vanishing rainfall in its most important industrial and agricultural — and already driest — regions, north of the capital.

Mexico’s response, however, has been the opposite of Canada’s. In its latest initiative, Secretary Guerra Abud last week hailed the launch3  of the country’s first carbon credit exchange, associated with the Mexican Stock Exchange. The facility will allow the sale and transfer of United Nations-backed certificates, documenting carbon emissions reductions at some 200 Mexican projects, to companies wishing to voluntarily offset other greenhouse gas emissions and thus claim carbon neutrality in their operations.

OK, it was hardly the turn of the tide in the climate battle. Nothing yet obliges Mexican companies to reduce their emissions; purchasing credits on the exchange will be purely voluntary. The facility’s impact on Mexico’s overall climate emissions will be slight.

But the new Plataforma Mexicana de Carbono does accomplish two valuable things. It establishes an exchange that will be able to weather its inevitable teething pains at relatively small scale on voluntary carbon reductions, and be ready to bulk up as and when those reductions become compulsory. And, it sends a strong symbolic signal that the country hosting it is responding to the number one threat in Hagel’s assessment.

In fact, the new carbon exchange is only one measure in Mexico’s natural defence strategy. The country, even more reliant than Canada on oil revenues, has nonetheless established a central agency to develop climate responses. A carbon tax is coming next year (which may also drive new business to the bolsa in carbon.)

The government in which Aglukkaq serves has denounced a carbon tax as “job-killing.” It has closed down its climate policy assets, and repeatedly kicked meaningful action further down the road.

The contrasting responses from America’s northern and southern neighbours are echoed within the borders of the United States, of course. Plenty of Congressional skeptics dismiss Secretary Hagel’s threat assessment. Even so, when the world’s most worst-case-ready organization tells us that unprecedented weather and rising seas are its biggest worry—we should probably listen up.

Copyright © 2013 Chris Wood

Contact: cwood@factsandopinions.com

References and further reading:

1. United States Department of Defense speech by Hagel: http://www.defense.gov/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=1821
2.Star Phoenix story, Federal government not ready for emissions rules:  http://www.thestarphoenix.com/business/Federal+government+ready+emissions+rules/9227240/story.html
3. Business Spectator story, Mexico launches its first carbon exchange: http://www.businessspectator.com.au/print/694386

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Newfoundland fishery 20 years after cod moratorium

Gerald Cooper of Trinity Bay, Newfoundland bring home the only thing he caught, a lone mackerel, on his last day of fishing before retiring. Photo by Greg Locke © 1999.

Twenty years after the Canadian government shut down the 500 year old Newfoundland cod fishery there are few signs of recovery of the near-extinct legendary fish stocks on the Grand Banks and north west Atlantic ocean. The fishery has changed but it is still possible for an ecologically viable and sustainable fishing activity … if the assorted governments, unions and fish companies would look for a better way and take responsibility for their actions. Check out  Two decades of disaster: Newfoundland’s fishery. for my look back on 20 years since the moratorium.

 

Posted in All, Canadian Journalist, Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , , , , , |

Two decades of disaster: Newfoundland’s fishery

Inshore fishermen leave the village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland at dawn to haul their cod traps. Photo by Greg Locke © 1992

Inshore fishermen leave the village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland at dawn to haul their cod traps. Photo by Greg Locke © 1992

By Greg Locke
PETTY HARBOUR, Newfoundland, Canada. July 2, 2012

It’s a cold foggy day in the fishing village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. Just 20 kilometers south from downtown St. John’s, it feels much further. There is not much activity or many people out and around the few remaining wharfs and twine lofts that once were buzzing hives of fishing activity ringing the harbour. Today, there are just a few frozen tourists looking to make photos of a Newfoundland that doesn’t exist anymore.

Fisherman, Reg Best, unloads nets in the village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland.© Greg Locke 1992.

Fisherman, Reg Best, unloads nets in the village of Petty Harbour, Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 1992. …click to enlarge

Twenty years ago I was here, too. It was a beautiful warm summer day and I was standing in this same spot on the breakwater with my cameras in hand. The harbour was filled with fishermen and their boats coming and going to the nearby fishing grounds. But there were no fish on that day. Their boats were filled with cod traps and anchors being returned to their storage places to rust and rot.

The grim faces and tears of the people of Petty Harbour, and other fishing communities around the eastern Canadian province, told the story of a great calamity.

The infamous cod moratorium imposed by the Canadian government came into effect on July 2, 1992, putting an end to the inshore cod fishery and a 500 year old economic activity that was the basis of Newfoundland culture and society.

It put an estimated 30,000 people out of work and escalated the exodus of people from rural Newfoundland.  It was the single largest layoff off of workers in Canadian history. Some social scientists say more than seventy thousand people have left the bays, coves and outports of the province since.

A few nights before in a St. John’s hotel ballroom, iconic Newfoundland Member of Parliament and cabinet minster, John Crosbie, had delivered the news to reporters while angry fisherman pounded on locked doors trying to get into the room.  Crosbie had to be escorted from the building by dozens of police officers. It was the closest the city has come to seeing a riot since 1932, when Prime Minister Sir Richard Squires ran for his life from protestors at the Colonial Building.

 

It’s not as if the fishermen hadn’t seen it coming.

 

It’s not as if the fishermen hadn’t seen it coming. For years their catches had been getting smaller. The fish were just not returning to the inshore waters in the spring after a long winter on the spawning grounds hundreds of miles out on the Grand Banks.

Fishermen told the politicians and scientists at the federal Department of Fisheries there were no fish. They were ignored, and DFO continued to issue catch quotas. The scientists said fishermen didn’t know anything, but the politicians refused to lower the quotas.

Just last week, John Crosbie, said in a retrospective interview with CBC that the scientists’ information wasn’t very good, so the government would not cut quotas based on the data.

The Gatherall brothers rounding Bay Bulls Head on the Southern Shore. Photo by Greg Locke © 1992 Copyright.

The Gatherall brothers rounding Bay Bulls Head on the Southern Shore. Photo by Greg Locke © 1992 Copyright. …click to enlarge

When we talk about fishermen in Newfoundland, we are usually referring to the individuals and their families who caught fish in season, from small 11-meter boats along the coast, in cod traps and, at one time, with jiggers and hand lines using passive fishing techniques

In today’s environmental parlance, it would be called a sustainable economic activity. It was not possible to over fish in the inshore fishery.

The Newfoundland fishery was nothing like the factory-freezer trawlers of multinational fish companies that worked 24/7, 365 days of the year, dragging massive nets through the ocean, vacuuming up every living creature and destroying the ocean floor until it was uninhabitable.

It was these floating fish factories owned by Canadian, Spanish and Portuguese corporations (plus other European Union countries) that fished the Northern Cod to the brink of extinction, before moving on to do the same with other species in South America and West Africa.

That’s why many Newfoundlanders are more than a little touchy when they hear people, especially their own politicians, say that Newfoundlanders over fished the cod stocks. It’s simply not true and it’s just an exercise in diluting the blame.

Spanish and Canadian offshore fishing trawlers at the Canadian 200mile limit on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 2000

Spanish and Canadian offshore fishing trawlers at the Canadian 200mile limit on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland.
© Greg Locke 2000 …click to enlarge

Unrestrained technology, international fishing and trade agreements, and government officials, are responsible for this ecological disaster — and they need to wear it.

Ironically, the establishment of the 321-kilometer limit (The 200 Mile Economic Exclusion Zone) in 1977 by Canada did more to destroy the Newfoundland fishery than protect it. With the new limit the government encouraged, licensed and financed Canadian fisherman and fish companies to build bigger boats and enterprises to exploit the new fishing zones. A 400-year-old passive fishery became an active and aggressive commercial hunting enterprise. Governments were encouraging overfishing.

Scientists estimate that the world’s total biomass of cod, tuna, and other large predatory fish has dropped 90 per cent since the industrialization of the fisheries in the 1950s.

 

Today’s $1 billion Newfoundland fishery is a different business

 

The fishery in Newfoundland today is still worth $1 billion, but it does not employ the same people who were in the inshore cod fishery. It is primarily a shrimp and crab fishery prosecuted by multi-million dollar boats fishing in the mid-shore regions. It’s a different business than what most people think of when they hear the words Newfoundland fishery.

But even this industry is under the same pressures as the cod fishery once was, with over capacity in the fleet and processing sectors, and diminishing catches. Dozens of fish processing plants have closed this year alone.

Recent provincial governments appear to have washed their hands completely of the industry, yet they are responsible for the processing sector. Fish is just not sexy when you are rolling in oil revenues and you don’t have to do deal with the socio-cultural implications and angry citizens.

 

There is a future for Newfoundland’s fishery if the province’s politicians, fish processors and unions open their eyes

 

 Spanish and Canadian offshore fishing trawlers at the Canadian 200mile limit on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. © Greg Locke 2000

Gerald Cooper of Trinity Bay, Newfoundland bring home the only thing he caught, a lone mackerel, on his last day of fishing before retiring. Photo by Greg Locke © 1999. …click image to enlarge

There is a future for the fishery in Newfoundland if the province’s politicians, fish processors and unions choose to open their eyes to it. Fish is a renewable resource, but you can’t catch more fish than are being reproduced.

A sustainable fishery is one that does not deplete the population or jeopardize the environment. A sustainable fishery can protect the environment and provide some people with jobs and food, and government with revenues, indefinitely.

Fishermen-run co-ops in Petty Harbour and Fogo Island were positive models even in the darkest days of the Newfoundland fishery. While the union, government and fish merchants squabbled, organizers saw a new way of doing business that side-stepped the status quo and saw fishermen process their own fish and chose their own markets to sell to.  It put management back in the hands of the fisherman, the ones who owned the fishing licenses and had the right to fish.

However, none of that reflects the current free-market capitalist fashion of resource management, that says greed is good and the faster and cheaper you can extinguish a resource, and move on, the better. In biological science that is the definition of a parasite.

Maybe the best Newfoundland fishermen can hope for is a total collapse of the global industry to the point where politicians, unions and companies are no longer interested, and move on. Then they can organize again, pick up the pieces, and go back to a local sustainable fishery where those who choose can live in beautiful coastal fishing villages and enjoy a livelihood that benefits us all.

 

Fishermen haul in their cod traps near Trouty, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Photo by Greg Locke © 1992

Fishermen haul in their cod traps near Trouty, Trinity Bay, Newfoundland. Photo by Greg Locke © 1992

Copyright © Greg Locke 2012

Portions of this article originally appeared in the Halifax Chronicle Herald in 2012.

Related:

Life goes on in rural Newfoundland, by Greg Locke

Travelling around Newfoundland this summer I began seeing signs of life, culture and a society I thought were lost forever.

 

 ~~~

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We do not carry advertising or “branded content,” or solicit donations from foundations or causes. Please support us with a contribution, below, of at least .27 per story, or a site pass for $1 per day or $20 per year — and by spreading the word.

 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Manthorpe on how China changed the security status quo

Even though China’s unilateral declaration of control over airspace off its eastern shores has spurred an unusually united push-back by the United States and its Asian allies, Beijing will be well pleased with the result of its imperial expansion, writes Jonathan Manthorpe in his new international affairs column.

With one small move that is unlikely to generate a sustained counter-attack from Washington and regional allies Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Beijing has changed in its favour the security status quo in the East China Sea.  read Manthorpe’s column here.*

*Please note, a $1 day pass or subscription is required to access premium work on F&O.

 

Posted in All, Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

Mickleburgh: Bangladesh and The Bay

Since more than 1,100 textile workers were killed in the calamitous collapse of a building in Dhaka, where they laboured to make cheap clothes for consumers in wealthier countries, scores of European and North American retailers have signed a binding accord to help improve workplace safety in Bangladesh. Holdouts include the Hudson’s Bay, the oldest, continuous commercial operation in North America, as well as Walmart, Canadian Tire and others which opted for a lesser safety agreement that does not provide for independent, on-site, factory inspections.

This week, reports Rod Mickleburgh, about 100 union activists, including the leader of the Bangladesh Centre for Worker Solidarity, trooped into The Bay in downtown Vancouver to make their case. Gathered before swank, high-priced merchandise, they serenaded shoppers, mannequins and suddenly-invisible Bay managers with chants of “Shame” and “Sign the Accord.”

Asks Mickleburgh in a Commentary column: “Surely, some executives somewhere must also be capable of thinking: if the cost of doing business involves the kind of textile-production atrocities we see in Bangladesh, is that production we want to be part of?”

Log in and read Mickleburgh’s column here.*

*Please note, a $1 day pass or subscription is required to access commentary on F&O.

Posted in All, Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , , , , |

China set to gain from airspace dispute

JONATHAN MANTHORPE
November 29, 2013. 

Even though China’s unilateral declaration of control over airspace off its eastern shores has spurred an unusually united push-back by the United States and its Asian allies, Beijing will be well pleased with the result of its imperial foray.

With one small move that is unlikely to generate a sustained counter-attack from Washington and regional allies Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, Beijing has changed in its favour the security status quo in the East China Sea.

At home, the imposition last Saturday of the Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) covering the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea, owned by Japan but claimed by China, has aroused strong nationalist support. This provides further evidence that new leader President Xi Jinping intends to try to make China’s re-emergence as an international power a major justification for the continued monopoly on power of the Chinese Communist Party.

A predictable result of the imposition of the ADIZ is that it has set the stage for Beijing to be able to claim in the future that it has demonstrated administrative capacity – and therefore sovereignty – in the airspace over the five Senkaku Islands.

Until now Japan has refused to acknowledge that there is a legitimate dispute over ownership of the Senkaku Islands, which the Chinese call the Diaoyu.

Tokyo points out the islands have been part of Japanese territory since 1895. Beijing began claiming the islands only in 1972 when a United Nations survey speculated there might be oil and gas reserves under the waters in the islands’ 200 nautical miles (370 kilometers) exclusive economic zone.

Since September last year, when the Tokyo government purchased three of the Senkakus from their private owner in an effort to cool rampant nationalism in both countries, Beijing has been sending fishing fleets and Coast Guard vessels into the waters around the islands. Japan has confronted the intruders with its own surveillance vessels, and these encounters have become increasingly intense.

And in the air, China has been regularly sending warplanes through Japan’s airspace over the islands. When China recently said it will patrol the skies over the Senkakus with unmanned drone aircraft, the Tokyo government warned it will shoot them down.

Beijing loves provoking Tokyo into making any kind of warlike statement. Such comments are always widely broadcast of evidence of Beijing’s claim that Japan secretly remains the militarist nation that invaded China in the 1930s and 1940s.

If, by imposing the ADIZ, Beijing can get Tokyo to even admit that there is a dispute over the Senkakus, this will be a significant feather in China’s diplomatic cap. It will affirm to the nations of Asia that China has re-emerged as an international power after two centuries of impotence.

The wording used last Saturday by Beijing to announce the imposition of the ADIZ suggests the rules set out by China may be widely followed by commercial airlines, thus giving China some ability, however frail in reality, to promote its sovereignty claim.

Unlike ADIZs operated by other countries in their surrounding airspace, China says its zone is under military administration. Any non-commercial aircraft entering the ADIZ without notice, and which refuses to follow the orders of China’s military, may face “defensive emergency measures.”

The U.S., Japan and South Korea immediately challenged the ADIZ and sent unarmed warplanes through the zone. China’s People’s Liberation Army Air Force planes monitored the flights, but did not attempt to intercept them.

However, commercial airlines using what is one of the world’s busiest airways are unlikely to endanger their passengers by taking such risks. Several airlines, even those merely transiting the zone and not heading for destinations in China, are notifying Beijing’s military authorities of their passage, and that is likely to continue.

The failure of the Chinese Air Force planes to do anything more than monitor the passage of the U.S., Japanese and South Korean military aircraft has prompted many outraged comments on Chinese blog sites, and even the mainstream media has characterised the response as wimpish.

The nationalist state-owned Global Times newspaper said by flying two massive B-52 bombers through China’s self-declared ADIZ, Washington had embarked on a “war of public opinion” and that Beijing had “failed to make a timely and ideal response.”

After a year in power, President Xi, who also heads the Communist Party, has made it clear that catering to nationalist instincts in China, which are heavily fertilised by distorted versions of history taught in schools and colleges, is one of his prime objectives.

It might have been expected that his first objectives would be to concentrate on China’s many domestic problems and to pay little attention to foreign policy until his home base is secure.

In fact, Xi is focusing as much on trying to establish China’s image as a great power in anticipation of America’s decline as he is on the country’s economic, social, political and administrative woes.

As well as confronting Japan, Xi is playing an equally bellicose game against the Philippines and Vietnam over disputed islands and islets in the South China Sea. Xi is forging strong security and economic ties with the oil and gas-rich countries of Central Asia.

The need for secure supplies of energy also propels Xi’s interventions in the Middle East, traditionally a region about which China knew little and cared less.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, has already been drawn into China’s energy security embrace with the construction of gas and oil pipelines from the Bay of Bengal to China’s south-western Yunnan province. These supply lines avoid the Malacca Strait “choke-point” between Singapore and Indonesia, which China fears the U.S. could easily close to tanker traffic in the event of conflict.

For several years Beijing has promoted itself as the honest broker in the dispute between the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and Russia over North Korea’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.

Under Xi, however, Beijing has made clear in word and deed that it will pursue its own interests with Pyongyang and is not interested in being a middleman for outsiders.

Copyright © Jonathan Manthorpe 2013

 Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |

Manthorpe: Echoes of pre-WWI in Chinese claims of airspace

As China ramps up its bellicose stance toward Japan and the United States with the imposition of an air defence zone over disputed territory, the imminent arrival of 2014 is mimicking the months before 1914, warns international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe. An excerpt:

In the early years of the 20th century, Germany saw that Britain had had to deploy the full weight of its empire to defeat the Afrikaners in the two Boer wars.

Berlin judged the days of Britain’s super power status were approaching their end. It launched an arms race and a flurry of provocations against Britain and its allies, which cascaded out of control into the First World War.

Beijing has made a similar judgement about the impending decline of the United States … read Manthorpe’s column here.*

*Please note, a $1 day pass or subscription is required to access premium work on F&O.

 

 

Posted in All, Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Chinese airspace claims reminiscent of pre-WW I

By Jonathan Manthorpe
November 27, 2013.

With China’s imposition of an air defence identification zone over disputed territory in the East China Sea, the imminent arrival of 2014 is beginning to look disturbingly like the months leading up to 1914.

In the early years of the 20th century, Germany saw that Britain had had to deploy the full weight of its empire to defeat the Afrikaners in the two Boer wars.

Berlin judged the days of Britain’s super power status were approaching their end. It launched an arms race and a flurry of provocations against Britain and its allies, which cascaded out of control into the First World War.

Beijing has made a similar judgement about the impending decline of the United States. China sees Washington has squandered untold resources and prestige in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Beijing sees a weakened and irresolute super power at the very same time as China’s confidence in its own destiny and power has returned after 200 years in the doldrums.

China’s announcement on Saturday that it is imposing an air defence identification zone (ADIZ) over much of the East China Sea is the latest in a decade of often small, and in themselves unexceptional, steps by Beijing to bolster its territorial claims. This is often called the salami slicing strategy.

Beijing’s tactic is to confront U.S. allies in Asia, and to see how far Washington is prepared to go to back its friends.

In making its claims to islands, islets and shoals in the South China Sea, Beijing has focused on pushing and shoving U.S. ally the Philippines and, to a lesser extent, increasingly Washington-friendly Vietnam.

In the East China Sea Beijing’s target is Japan. The ADIZ covers the airspace above the Senkaku Islands, owned by Japan since 1895, but claimed by China since 1972, when the prospects of finding submarine oil and gas around the five islands were first set out.

There is an added benefit for the Chinese Communist Party in goading Japan. Decades of indoctrination in Chinese schools against the Japanese for their colonial exploits in China in the 1930s and 1940s means that Chinese nationalism can easily be excited and attention diverted from the government’s own failings.

As Beijing grows more confident of its power, the rhetoric accompanying its moves to assert its territorial claims has become more belligerent.

The announcement of the ADIZ follows this pattern. Most countries have ADIZs in the air space approaching their borders. However, they usually only require planes planning to cross or land in the country’s territory to identify themselves, and then only to air traffic controllers.

China’s ADIZ is a different matter entirely. The statement accompanying the announcement said all planes travelling through the ADIZ, even if China is not their destination, must identify themselves and “follow the instructions” of China’s Defence Ministry.

The statement said China’s military will adopt “defensive emergency measures” toward aircraft that refuse to comply. If the implications of that are not clear enough, People’s Liberation Army Air Force Major General Qiao Liang was quoted in state-controlled media on Tuesday as saying “If the subject intruding into the zone disregarded any warning, our pilots have the right to shoot it down.”

The thought that the lives of passengers on airliners traveling some of the busiest air corridors in the world are now in the hands of young Chinese fighter pilots, with little or no experience of dealing with complex situations, is alarming.

Understandably in the circumstances, airlines from Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and even Japan have said in the last few days they will comply with China’s demands.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways have, however, bowed to pressure from the Tokyo government and said they will not comply.

Today Washington also pushed back against Beijing and flew two of its massive B-52 bombers from their base in Guam through the ADIZ. China’s military did not confront the unarmed American planes, though Beijing said it had “monitored” the flights.

In this kind of situation the danger always is accident or miscalculations by forces on the frontline that then spiral out of control. That said, Beijing will likely now sit back and judge the power of the reactions to its move. It will probably not use its military to enforce the ADIZ unless it thinks it can do so with impunity.

Washington, Japan, Taiwan and even South Korea, which is going through a bad patch in its relations with Japan, have all condemned China’s ADIZ move.

It falls, though, very much in the pattern Beijing has established of taking the long view of its territorial claims, all of which have little or no historic or legal merit, and of seeking to assert its sovereignty by small, incremental steps.

In the waters around the Senkaku Islands, which China calls the Diaoyu, Beijing has for months been sending fishing boats and coast guard vessels to confront the Japanese authorities. The attempt to control the airspace over the islands is another step in these moves to establish a sovereign presence.

Beijing’s claim in the South China Sea stretches over 1,000 kilometers south from the nearest undisputed Chinese territory, Hainan Island, all the way to the territorial waters of Indonesia.

In its dispute with other littoral nations, Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, China has occupied some islands and islets in their waters. It also, several years ago, created an ersatz “municipality” covering its claimed area of the South China Sea.

Few people took this bit of theatre seriously until, earlier this year, China set up on Wood Island in the centre of the South China Sea what it says is a government administering its territory.

It is an easy prediction to say that Beijing’s next move will be to try to impose an ADIZ over its claimed territory in the South China Sea.

© Jonathan Manthorpe 2013

 Contact: jonathan.manthorpe@gmail.com

 

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged |