Thursday, November 24, 2011

El Chiño

Like an El Niño, China is turning up the heat in the Pacific Ocean.

Is this just another ratcheting of the South China Seize (Guambat's copyrighted pun), or mere Super Power Posturing?

China navy to carry out Pacific exercises
Japanese defence officials reported seeing six warships sailing in international waters near the country's southern Okinawa prefecture.

The Chinese defence ministry said the drills were routine and were not targeting any specific country. A short statement on the defence ministry's website announced the exercises late on Wednesday.

"This is an annual, planned, routine drill. It is not directed at any specific country or target and is in keeping with relevant international laws and practices," said the statement.

"China's freedom of navigation and other legal rights should not be obstructed."

A Pentagon spokesman said the US had no problem with the naval exercises. Captain John Kirby said that China was "entitled to exercise their military in ways they deem fit".

Jaswant Singh: Asia's Giants Colliding at Sea?
While returning in late July from a goodwill visit to Vietnam in waters recognized as international, an Indian naval ship was 'hailed' on open radio and advised to 'lay off' the South China Sea.

Why did China attempt to interfere with a ship sailing in open seas? Was this 'merely' another of China's unwarranted assertions of sovereignty over the whole South China Sea, or was something more malevolent afoot?

At China's Foreign Ministry, a spokesperson explained: 'we are opposed to any country engaging in oil and gas exploration and development activities in waters under China's jurisdiction.'

Is the two countries' argument merely about who will develop the South China Sea's untapped energy resources, or are we dealing with the beginning of a struggle for spheres of influence?

To find an answer requires confronting civilizational norms, which are reflected in the intellectual games that the countries favor. India has traditionally favoured the game of chaupad (four sides), or shatranj (chess), concentrating on contest, conquest, and subjugation. China, on the other hand, has wei qui (known in Japan as go), which focuses on strategic encirclement. As Sun Tzu advised many centuries ago, 'Ultimate excellence lies...not in winning every battle, but in defeating the enemy, without ever fighting.'

For India, the sense that a struggle for regional mastery is occurring has become increasingly keen. Chinese activity in Pakistan and Myanmar, the expansion of China's port agreements in the Indian Ocean (the so-called 'string of pearls'), and heightened Chinese naval activity in the Indian Ocean have jangled India's security antennas. Indeed, the official Chinese publication Global Times, altering its previous stance, recently called for putting a stop to India's energy plans in the region. 'Reasoning may be used first, but if India is persistent in this, China should try every means possible to stop this...from happening.'

The same article then threw Tibet into the stew of accusations. 'Chinese society,' it continued, 'has...been indignant about India's intervention in the Dalai problem,' cautioning India to 'bear in mind' that 'its actions in the South China Sea will push China to the limit.' According to Global Times, 'China cherishes the Sino-Indian friendship, but this does not mean China values it above all else.'

Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China
2011 (USDOD Report to Congress)
Section 1246, “Annual Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People‟s Republic of China,” of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010, Public Law 111-84, which amends the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Section 1202, Public Law 106-65, provides that the Secretary of Defense shall submit a report “in both classified and unclassified form, on military and security developments involving the People‟s Republic of China. The report shall address the current and probable future course of military-technological development of the People‟s Liberation Army and the tenets and probable development of Chinese security strategy and military strategy, and of the military organizations and operational concepts supporting such development over the next 20 years. The report shall also address United States-China engagement and cooperation on security matters during the period covered by the report, including through United States-China military-to-military contacts, and the United States strategy for such engagement and cooperation in the future.”
The United States welcomes a strong, prosperous, and successful China that reinforces international rules and norms and enhances security and peace both regionally and globally.

China’s 2010 Defense White Paper asserts that China’s "future and destiny have never been more closely connected with those of the international community". Nonetheless, China’s modernized military could be put to use in ways that increase China’s ability to gain diplomatic advantage or resolve disputes in its favor.

Over the past decade, China’s military has benefitted from robust investment in modern hardware and technology. Many modern systems have reached maturity and others will become operational in the next few years. Following this period of ambitious acquisition, the decade from 2011 through 2020 will prove critical to the PLA as it attempts to integrate many new and complex platforms, and to adopt modern operational concepts, including joint operations and network-centric warfare.
China has made modest, but incremental, improvements in the transparency of its military and security affairs. However, there remains uncertainty about how China will use its growing capabilities.

China’s leaders characterize the initial two decades of the 21st century as a "strategic window of opportunity". They assess that during this period, both domestic and international conditions will be conducive to expanding China’s "comprehensive national power" (zonghe guoli—综合国力), a term that encapsulates all elements of state power including economic capacity, military might, and diplomacy. Speaking in December 2010, PRC Defense Minister Liang Guanglie asserted that ―making the country prosperous and making the armed forces strong are two major cornerstones for realizing the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

China’s leaders anticipate that a successful expansion of comprehensive national power will serve China’s overriding strategic objectives, which include perpetuating CCP rule; sustaining economic growth and development; maintaining domestic political stability; defending national sovereignty and territorial integrity; and securing China’s status as a great power.

Rather than challenge the existing global order, China has adopted a pragmatic approach to international relations and economic development that seeks to strengthen the economy, modernize the military, and solidify the CCP’s hold on power. This approach reflects Beijing’s assumption that great power status over the long-term is best achieved by avoiding confrontation in the near-term. China’s leaders routinely emphasize the goal of reaching critical economic and military benchmarks by 2020 and eventually becoming a world-class economic and military power by 2050.

Historically a continental power, China increasingly looks to the maritime domain as a source of economic prosperity and national security. China’s evolving "maritime consciousness", as reflected in senior-level rhetoric and resource allocation, has potentially far reaching consequences in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. Many PRC officials and citizens view maritime power as a prerequisite to becoming a "great power".

In its 2010 "China Ocean’s Development Report", China’s State Oceanic Administration (SOA) proclaimed, "building maritime power" is China’s historic task for the 21st century, and the decade from 2010-2020 is the key historic stage for realizing this task. Although China appears to lack an official maritime strategy, PRC officials, military strategists, and academics are focused on the growing relevance of maritime power to China’s interests.

China’s expanding economic interests, including both maritime commerce and the exploitation of marine resources, have affected Beijing’s perception of maritime power as it relates to national interests. Speaking in 2007, President Hu asserted that, "to develop maritime issues is one of the strategic tasks to boost our national economic development". China looks to the oceans as a critical resource, providing fish and potentially large oil and gas reserves.

The oceans also serve as a vital artery for trade and support China’s economic health, with approximately ninety percent of China’s imports and exports transiting by sea. A net oil exporter until 1993, China now imports over half of the oil it consumes, over 80 percent of which transits the Malacca Strait and South China Sea.

Until General Liu instituted the PLA Navy’s "Offshore Defense" strategy in 1986, the PLA Navy was focused mainly on "resisting invasions and defending the homeland".

Although not defined by specific boundaries, Offshore Defense is generally characterized by the maritime space within China’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) or sometimes by the "first island chain", including the Yellow Sea, East China Sea, and South China Sea.

In recent years, the PLA Navy has begun emphasizing missions in the so-called "far seas", an area loosely defined by the "second island chain", which stretches from Northern Japan, through the Northern Mariana Islands, through Guam.

From the perspective of Beijing, these so called "near seas" constitute a security buffer and hold potentially significant oil and gas resources. The PRC has attempted to use legal pronouncements, civilian enforcement, and naval assets to advance PRC interests within this buffer zone.

In 1992, China’s National People’s Congress passed the Law of Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zones, which proclaimed the South China Sea as PRC "historic waters." Beijing has crafted a series of laws that codify PRC claims to regional territory and proscribe special restrictions on foreign activities in China’s EEZ.

China has attempted to apply security restrictions to the EEZ, which are inconsistent with customary international law as reflected in UNCLOS.

Around the time President Hu Jinto articulated the "New Historic Missions" in 2004, Chinese officials and scholars began openly discussing the extent to which China should expand its maritime power.

The term "yuanhai fangwei" (远海防卫) which translates to "distant/far sea defense," began appearing with increasing frequency in Chinese publications. Authors associated with the Naval Research Institute (NRI) called the "shift from offshore to open ocean naval operations" an "inevitable historic choice" for China noting that naval power must "match the expansion of China’s maritime interests." [Does "Manifest Destiny" or "Monroe Doctrine" ring any bells?]

Navy deployment trends in recent years underscore China’s interests in a limited "far seas" capability. Some PRC commentators advocate a sustained shift from an "Offshore Defense" strategy to "Far Seas Defense."

Recently, several Navy officials and commentators have broached the once-taboo topic of overseas military basing.

The DOD report is quite long and filled with side bars and maps and other useful information. It, and all linked art, should be read for better understanding (and making sure it's presented right here in context).

Further reading:
China’s Near Sea Policy Provoking Regional Instability – Analysis

China’s mix of historical and legal claims in the South China Sea are inconsistent, says Frank Ching. Beijing can’t have its cake and eat it.

The idea that the United States should abandon Southeast Asia to China is misplaced. Asia isn’t another Georgia, says James Holmes.

And in related (?) news: NK issues 'sea of fire' warning against South
The warning came a day after South Korea staged exercises near Yeonpyeong Island to mark the first anniversary of the North's deadly shelling of the South Korean border island.

If South Korea dares "to impair the dignity of (the North) again and fire one bullet or shell toward its inviolable territorial waters, sky and land, the deluge of fire on Yonphyong Island will lead to that in Chongwadae and the sea of fire in Chongwadae to the deluge of fire sweeping away the stronghold of the group of traitors," the command said in a statement, carried by the official (North) Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).



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