China: Some Sinister Purpose


June 12, 2012:  Responding to criticism from nervous neighbors, China is not apologizing for its growing military power. China's 2.1 million active duty military personnel make it the largest in the world. For two decades now this force has been shrinking and transformed by a flood of new equipment. China says this spending is necessary because China has vast frontiers (22,000 kilometers of land borders and 18,000 kilometers of coastline). But those borders have been there for a long time and have never been well guarded. Historically, China needed large armed forces to protect against invaders looking to get rich by looting the place. As previous invaders (Japanese, Mongols, Western colonial powers) have discovered, invasion is more trouble, and expensive, than it's worth. China's neighbors see the world this way and consider a growing Chinese military as a potential aggressor. That is how China grew over thousands of years. A little invasion here, a little aggressive diplomacy there expands the imperial borders bit by bit. Look at the ethnic map of China and you will find both sides of Chinese border regions crowded with ethnic minorities that preferred to flee the imperial invaders, rather than just submit to the Han (ethnic Chinese, who are 20 percent of the planet's population). While there have been some genocides along the way, China is content to slowly assimilate its neighbors. Few have ever wanted assimilation and the current unrest in Tibet (seized in 1951) and northwest China (seized in 1949) is directly related to Tibetans and Turks resisting being overrun by Han migrants. China has border disputes and territorial claims, some quite ancient, with all its neighbors. Recently it has been quite vocal, and threatening, about disputes with India and the Philippines. Actually, China claims all of the South China Sea and any natural resources beneath. Chinese state controlled media have mentioned ("accidentally", several times) that the Philippines is actually a part of China. As a result of all this, most nations in East Asia see growing Chinese military power as part of a plan to expand China, not defend it.

The modernization of China's forces is scary because it includes more training, and not just buying a lot of modern weapons and gear. Chinese warships are now being encountered far at sea and Chinese warplanes are increasingly coming up to, and occasionally crossing the borders, of neighbors. Chinese long-range maritime patrol aircraft are being seen far at sea. All this convinces neighbors that the Chinese modernization is not just for show but for some sinister purpose. One could dismiss this as paranoia, except that paranoia has long been seen by the neighbors as a healthy response to Chinese military power and intentions. The really scary aspect of all this is the knowledge that China takes the long view and will patiently increase the military and diplomatic pressure slowly until, eventually, the opponent succumbs to the inevitable.

China continues to push exports of the many new weapons it is producing. These efforts have not been very successful, with China having only about three percent of the arms export market. But in one area China is becoming dominant. China has long been willing to sell weapons to anyone. A decade ago Russian arms dealers dominated this market with cheap Cold War surplus stuff. But over the last decade international criticism (and prosecution) of Russian gunrunners, and cheap, but brand new Chinese stuff, has made China dominant in the "anyone/anywhere" market. China ignores any criticism.

India is getting nervous about China's growing power (economic and military) in the Indian Ocean. China has economic and military connections with Pakistan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and many African nations. China and Sri Lanka (which has long had tense relations with India) has become the beneficiary of Chinese economic and military aid and, in short, become very friendly with the Chinese. Sri Lanka has received crucial military aid from China in the last decade, especially during the war with Tamil rebels (who received a lot of aid from Tamils in southern India). India can't become too friendly with Sri Lanka without causing political problems with its own Tamils (many of whom still support the recently defeated Tamil rebels of Sri Lanka, where Tamils have long been a troublesome minority).

June 8, 2012:  The U.S. openly pledged to assist the Philippines in resisting Chinese aggression. The U.S. is doing this with other Chinese neighbors as well, usually by invitation.

June 7, 2012: China and Russia united in their criticism of missile defenses. Russia is particularly angry about NATO ballistic missile defenses against Iran and North Korea, which Russia sees as an attempt to cripple the Russian nuclear missile force. China is unhappy, for the same reason, with growing anti-missile capabilities in Japan, Taiwan, and the United States. Russia and China consider missile defenses as unfriendly and a threat to peace.

June 5, 2012: Without naming names, China has warned foreign embassies that using pollution monitors on embassy property (which the Chinese government cannot touch) and releasing that information to the public is illegal. Embassies post this information on their websites for the benefit of their citizens visiting Beijing (the Chinese capital). China does not want to publicize how bad the pollution is in Beijing (or anywhere else in China) and it is illegal to monitor and make public this sort of bad news. The U.S. is one of the nations where pollution data is posted, and China could risk a diplomatic spat by censoring the use of the American embassy website inside China, to protect Chinese from the bad news about air pollution.

June 3, 2012: Like clockwork Chinese police cracked down on any demonstrations commemorating the Tiananmen Square democracy protests. This is the 23rd anniversary of that event, which was put down with great loss of life by soldiers and tanks. The government is seeking to make it a "non-event" (something that never existed) in China.

June 2, 2012:  The editor of a major Chinese newspaper (Southern Metropolitan) was forced by the government to resign because a comment about the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) control over the Chinese armed forces showed up on the newspapers website and stayed around long enough to go viral (spread internationally). The post criticized CCP control over the military, which is seen (by many Chinese) as the key to how the corrupt CCP maintains its power. The editor was dismissed because he did not have a system in place to quickly remove such comments. The government fires officials regularly for this sort of thing, to encourage others to be more attentive when dealing with unwanted criticism of the CCP.





Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contributions. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   Contribute   Close