China: The Hidden Menace

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March 17, 2011:  The massive earthquakes and tidal waves that hit Japan since the 11th have greatly reduced the combat capability of the Japanese armed forces. One air base, near the eastern coast, got hit by the tidal wave, putting a squadron of 18 F-2 fighters out of action, some of them permanently. The air force only has 98 F-2s. Some warships were damaged, as were structures and equipment in military bases in northern areas of the main island of Honshu. Over half the troops in the military were diverted to deal with quake damage on their bases, or assistance to civilians in affected areas. Much specialized military engineering and fire-fighting equipment has been diverted to quake relief operations. While coastal defense and patrol functions will continue, training will take a big hit. The military will be heavily involved in quake related work for months, and it will be more than a year before the armed forces are back to their pre-quake state of readiness. Japan has the most modern, and one of the best trained, armed forces in the region.  The earthquake is the biggest event the military has had to deal with since World War II.

South Korea has complained to China about continued Chinese hacking attacks on South Korean government and military networks. China denies any responsibility, but South Korean network security experts are compiling a growing body of evidence showing that the attacks are coming from China. North Korean hackers (all government employees, no one else has access up there) are increasingly active against South Korea as well, but China is the major worry.

China is also getting caught employing more conventional espionage. At any given time, there are several American prosecutions of Chinese living in the United States, caught stealing military or commercial secrets for China. The Chinese government denies any involvement.

Chinese reformers have found their attempts to continue protests (as recently happened in many Arab nations) have been foiled by the government. Over a hundred reform leaders have been jailed, and the police always seem to know when big protests are being staged, and disrupt them. In the capital alone, the government has 180,000 police, and over half a million security volunteers mobilized to prevent any major demonstrations from even forming. The government has also responded with more social spending and crackdowns on corruption. So many Chinese see the government as dealing with problems, and this keeps the size of public protests small.  

March 16, 2011: In Western China, a Buddhist monk burned himself to death in protest of Chinese rule. Thousands of monks and civilians assembled over the next 24 hours to protest. But even more police and soldiers showed up, to stop the unrest of spreading.

China is participating in an international (ASEAN) disaster relief exercise in Indonesia. Chinese military medical personnel have deployed to a remote area and are treating locals. China has also sent substantial emergency units to Japan, to help deal with rescue and other work in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake. Japan had done the same for the earthquakes China had suffered in 29008, and this sort of mutual assistance goes a long way towards reducing friction between the major nations in the region.

March 14, 2011: Responding to decades or complaints from foreigners (and some Chinese) about rampant production, sale and export of counterfeit goods, the Chinese government staged hundreds of raids across the country and arrested 3,001 people and charged them with stealing intellectual property and manufacturing counterfeit stuff. China has increased its anti-counterfeiting efforts over the past few years, partly in recognition that it’s scientists and inventors were producing valuable new ideas that would benefit from international copyright and patent protection. That protection was not going to happen until the massive counterfeiting carried out inside China was shut down. It will take a year or so to see if the current effort is real, or just another media event.

March 12, 2011: The government has admitted what most everyone knows, the decades of economic growth, and inept government, had produced a growing number of serious pollution situations. It's only going to get worse unless the government cracks down on polluters (instead of officials taking a bribe and looking the other way.)

March 4, 2011:  China announced that military spending would increase 12.7 percent this year. The defense budget has doubled in the last decade. This year, spending on internal security (regular police, secret police, courts, jails and domestic surveillance) increased 13.8 percent. In fact, this year, the official budget for internal security ($95 billion) will be larger than the military budget ($91.5 billion). Despite all the military spending, China is still a regional superpower, not an international one. But that is changing, as one can see with China sending warships to the anti-piracy patrol off Somalia for several years now, and recently dispatching ships and aircraft to North Africa to evacuate Chinese citizens working in Libya. China may be a regional power now, but in a decade or two, China will be a global superpower. All this spending has triggered a regional arms race, as Japan, South Korea, Australia and other nations increase their military spending to account for the growing Chinese military threat. And the threat is particularly frightening because the Chinese are putting a lot of emphasis on improving the skills and quality of their troops. The Chinese military continues to shrink, but those still in uniform are, each year, better educated and effective at their jobs. It's the highly trained force that can really threaten neighbors, not the large army mainly intended to defeat invasions, or keep your own citizens in line.

March 3, 2011:  The Philippines has accused China of sending two patrol boats to interfere with a Filipino oil exploration ship. The Filipino ship was working in waters off the Spratly Islands, that both countries claim.

March 1, 2011: The Chinese government has some citizens upset with a new program that will use the location tracking feature of cell phones (by using cell phone tower accessed) to track all phone users in large cities to deal with traffic jams. The same technology, which requires the cell phone companies to buy a lot more computers and storage, can be used to track people the government is investigating.

 

 


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