China: A Shift In Strategy And Tactics

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April 5, 2015: Yet another source of tension with North Korea has appeared as North Korea has started arresting Chinese doing business in North Korea and accusing them of spying for South Korea. While some of those arrested may be guilty, most could also be considered spies for China. Any Chinese citizen travelling to North Korea can expect to be called in by the Chinese government to be debriefed by an intelligence analyst. To China this is normal, to North Korea it is espionage and that is punishable by death. The North Koreans are very aware of the network of Chinese spies inside North Korea. China long considered Chinese citizens immune from arrest and prosecution for spying but that is now changing, with the North Koreans using “they are South Korean spies” as an excuse to damage the Chinese intelligence network in North Korea. This, it is believed, would make it more difficult for China to stage a coup against a North Korean government that is increasingly unpopular in China.

The India has joined Burma in pressuring China to do something about the continued shipments of Chinese weapons to tribal rebels in northern Burma and northeast India. China denies this is happening and points out that many Burmese rebels, especially the Wa army has long used Chinese weapons they bought from illegal dealers in China and then smuggled into Burma. China also points out that Burmese troops also use Chinese weapons. Burma and India counter that the rebels in both countries are using weapons China did not sell to the Burmese Army. Moreover these Chinese weapons (often older and cheaper designs) are showing up worldwide in the hands of rebels, terrorists and gangsters. The point here is that China is looking the other way as a huge illegal arms sales and smuggling operation goes about its business. China is in the midst of a major corruption crackdown so these complaints from Burma and India might be addressed this time around. Then again, maybe not.

April 4, 2015: India and Japan announced a negotiations were underway to see how the two could cooperate militarily and diplomatically to resist Chinese aggression. India is particularly alarmed at the Chinese practice of dredging enough sand from around underwater reefs to create a tiny island and then claim that island gives China ownership of that particular patch of ocean. India sees China as likely to do this in the Indian Ocean near India.

April 3, 2015: In a first for China, a senior (former head of all security in China) official was indicted for corruption. Zhou Yongkang was also a member of the Politburo, the committee of five to nine (currently seven) most senior officials from which the president of China is chosen and that membership in is the pinnacle of the career of a Chinese official. Not all Politburo members are corrupt, not personally. But all have kin who are and these family members take economic advantage of that the fact that their husband, brother, father, uncle, cousin (or whatever) is a senior official. The kin then profit from corrupt dealings. Zhou Yongkang was rare in that he got personally involved with corrupt deals and that is forbidden by law and custom (among senior officials). The government anti-corruption campaign is also going after the dirty kin, although many of these are given the opportunity to surrender all their ill-gotten gains and stay clean. But some are being prosecuted and jailed. No executions yet, but it’s only a matter of time if these prosecutions continue. President Xi Jinping is behind this latest anti-corruption push and his approval ratings with most Chinese have risen sharply as a result. Xi knows that these prosecutions are not popular with the government bureaucracy so he orders his anti-corruption operatives to first go after those who are not known to be big supporters of Xi. This encourages more loyalty to Xi and his unpopular anti-corruption program. Many Chinese believed that the government (run by the Communist Party) would never actually go after Communist Party members. Yet many Communist Party officials have been quite open about the danger to Communist Party rule in China if the rampant corruption within the Communist Party was not addressed. Now it has been and Communist Party members see the possibility of long-term survival of Communist Party rule in China.

April 2, 2015: Burma officially apologized to China for the death of five Chinese civilians hit by a bomb from a Burmese warplane on March 13th. The Burmese aircraft thought it was attacking rebels on the Burmese side of the border. The Burmese government denied this accident at first but after about a week (and Chinese movement of warplanes to their side of the border along with threats of retaliation) the Burmese officials realized the truth and apologized unofficially. It took a while to get the formal apology composed to the satisfaction of the Chinese.

The first of a new class of Taiwanese corvettes, armed with 16 modern (and Taiwanese made) anti-ship missiles entered service. Taiwan is building 11 more of these 500 ton, high-speed ships in order to discourage Chinese invasion.

Pakistan signed an agreement to buy eight Chinese submarines. China has finally found export customers for its diesel-electric submarines. Not just one, but several. In late December 2014 China agreed to sell Bangladesh two Type 035G subs for $103 million each. For over a year China and Pakistan have been negotiating prices and terms for the sale of more advanced Chinese Type 041 subs. At first it was believed that Pakistan wanted six subs, but the final deal specified eight. Currently the Pakistani Navy has five submarines.

April 1, 2015: Two American F-18s made an emergency landing at a Taiwanese airbase. The mechanical problem (a troublesome sensor) in one of the F-18s was soon found and fixed and the aircraft returned to their base in Okinawa on the 3rd. China promptly denounced this incident as illegal and a provocation. Technically, it was not illegal. Although the U.S. has no formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan (because of the early 1970s deal that enabled the U.S. and most of the West to establish relationships with communist China) the U.S. has many informal links with Taiwan, all of which China considers illegal because the official Chinese position on Taiwan is that it is a rebellious province not an independent nation.

March 31, 2015:  Russia and Turkey are negotiating terms of Turkey joining a barter arrangement with Russia. To get around the banking sanctions Russia has, in effect established a barter system with China, North Korea and Iran. China has become a major trading partner of Russia. As a result Chinese businesses with Russian dealings have been advised by their government to use the rubles they are paid for goods to buy Russian assets, which are finding far fewer other foreign buyers because of the Russian economic crises. This Chinese aid comes with strings, mainly in terms of Russia agreeing to sell more military tech (design and manufacturing methods) to China. Turkey is also looking for some payback although it is unclear so far what that is.

March 30, 2015: China rejected the North Korean effort to join the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank). The AIIB is part of a Chinese effort to build an alternative to Western dominated financial institutions like the IMF and World Bank. The AIIB would serve as an option especially for friends of China in Asia. But the North Korean economy was seen as too far gone even for the AIIB. This Chinese decision was also seen as a message to North Korea to do what China wants or continue to suffer for it. North Korea has been increasingly hostile to Chinese investments in North Korea, which is counterproductive since North Korea needs the foreign exchange. Chinese leaders cannot understand this self-destructive behavior. South Korea, in contrast, has been very receptive to Chinese investment and Chinese investors have responded enthusiastically. For example a Chinese firm recently paid over a billion dollars to obtain a controlling interest in a major South Korean insurance company.

March 29, 2015: A Chinese warship arrived in Aden, the largest port in Yemen, to evacuate Chinese citizens, especially diplomats.

Russia agreed to let Chinese banks with questionable finances (even by Chinese standards) to operate in Russia. This is because Russia needs access to investment capital as the sanctions have deprived Russia of this. Russian economists caution against this sort of involvement with China but are ignored because the struggle with the West is considered a higher priority than the future health of the Russian economy.

March 26, 2015: The Philippines reminded China that no one recognizes Chinese claims in the South China Sea and that increasingly aggressive Chinese actions against ships “violating” seas China claims control over could lead to war. China, as usual, ignored this criticism and in turn admonishes the United States to stop complaining about China’s legitimate efforts to control the South China Sea. China refuses to acknowledge the possibility that anyone else has any valid claims on the South China Sea, which China now considers part of China, While not willing to go to war over the issue, China is willing to bully other nations away from territory the people in these countries (like the Philippines) have controlled, or at least used, for centuries. Meanwhile the Philippines succumbed to Chinese threats and ordered a halt to oil exploration in the part of the Spratly Islands within the Filipino EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) because China also claims that area and the UN is now arbitrating the dispute. China has already said it will not abide by any UN decision against it. In the last year or so China has rapidly gone from building platforms to bringing in dredging ships and piling up sand into new islands. Thus Hughes reef, which has had a 380 square meter (4,100 square feet) raised platform since 2004 has in the last six months built (via dredging) a 75,000 square meter (18 acre) island with an airstrip and buildings now under construction. Similar platform building and island creation is under way at other reefs (Johnson South, Gaven Reefs and Fiery Cross Reef) in the Spratlys. About 45 of the islands are currently occupied by small numbers of military personnel. China claims them all, but long occupied only 8 while Vietnam has occupied or marked 25, the Philippines 8, Malaysia 6, and Taiwan one. Now China is building platforms and new islands all over the Spratly chain giving it a legal (at least according to China) claim to all of the Spratly Islands. Japan has formally allied itself with the Philippines and Vietnam to plan and train for joint action against Chinese aggression in the South China Sea. Japan, with the second (after China) largest navy in the region, already has a close relationship with the U.S. Navy. No one, especially the United States (the strongest naval power in the Pacific) has dared to confront the Chinese over these claims so the Chinese keep expanding their control and these newly created islands and their military garrisons are part of how China will win this campaign. 

March 23, 2015: China has agreed to halt its aggressive activities along the Indian border and work out a new set of rules on how the two countries would conduct security operations there. India has been accusing China of continuing to violate a 2013 agreement that was supposed to halt the Chinese troop incursions across the LAC (Line of Actual Control) into Indian territory. While Indian and Chinese officers continued to meet regularly to discuss the matter the Chinese violations continued. The LAC is also known as the MacCartney-MacDonald Line and is the unofficial border between India and China. The LAC is 4,057 kilometers long and is found in the Indian States of Ladakh, Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal, and Arunachal. On the Chinese side it is mostly Tibet. China claims much territory that is now considered part of India. There have been hundreds of armed confrontations over the last few years as one side or the other accuses “foreign troops” of crossing the LAC. China has long been willing to talk with India over the claims on Indian territory but refused to reduce the aggressive tactics. That appears to have changed, perhaps. The Chinese aggression made India, which has a defense budget one third that of China’s, nervous.

March 21, 2015:  The government ordered an end to its anti-Christian campaign which had led to the closure and destruction of many Christian churches and the arrest of some Christian leaders on questionable charges. Over 400 churches had been partly or completely destroyed. Some senior government officials were concerned with the rapid proliferation of Christianity and the loyalty of these Chinese converts. Christianity has been in China for centuries and currently is about five percent of the population. Apparently even more senior officials became convinced that the Chinese Christians were apolitical and not a threat.

March 20, 2015: China has agreed to supply Pakistan with two more nuclear power plants, each generating 1,100 megawatts, for about $5 billion each. This would give Pakistan five nuclear power plants. China will provide loans to help Pakistan get this project going.

March 18, 2015: South Korea has openly called on China to stop using diplomatic threats and economic bribes in an effort to get South Korea to halt the installation of an anti-missile system. South Korea wants this American THAAD anti-ballistic missile defense system for protection from North Korean missile attack. The Chinese would not come right out and say it but they object mainly because THAAD would also make South Korea less vulnerable to intimidation by Chinese ballistic missiles. South Korea openly refused to comply with the Chinese threats and South Korean public opinion became even more enthusiastic about the high tech and very expensive (over $100 million per launcher and associated equipment) THAAD system. China sees South Korea more of an ally of the United States and a potential wartime foe than as an ally in attempts to keep North Korea from doing anything that would cause major economic and diplomatic problems (like starting a war).      

March 17, 2015: After years of denying any involvement in Cyber War or having organized units for that sort of thing, China suddenly admitted that it was all true. This was all laid out in the latest (March 2015) issue of a Chinese military publication (The Science of Military Strategy). This unclassified journal comes out about once a year and makes it possible for all Chinese military and political leaders to freely discuss new military strategies. The March edition went into a lot of detail about Chinese Cyber War operations. Most of these details were already known for those who could read Western media. Many details of Chinese Cyber War activities are published in the West, if only to warn as many organizations as possible of the nature and seriousness of the threat. Apparently the Chinese leadership decided that the secrecy about their Cyber War activities was being stripped away by foreigners anyway so why bother continuing to deny. Publish and take a victory lap.

March 16, 2015: China has responded to Japanese efforts to defend the Senkaku Islands by building a helicopter base on a Chinese island 335 kilometers from the Senkakus, This is within range of transport helicopters that could bring in troops and weapons in under two hours. This is seen as a response to the Japanese decision in late 2014 to purchase 17 American MV-22 transports. This the Japanese did to defend the Senkaku Islands from possible surprise Chinese attack. The V-22s are faster than helicopters but Japanese territory is about a hundred kilometers farther away than Chinese land. So given sufficient warning the Chinese and Japanese occupation forces would arrive on the Senkakus at the same time.

March 15, 2015: March 15, 2015: China threatened to respond militarily if there was another Burmese air force attack inside China.

March 14, 2015: March 14, 2015: China issued a formal protest over the Burmese air strike in China yesterday.

March 13, 2015: March 13, 2015: A Burmese warplane strayed into China and killed five (and wounded eight) Chinese with a bomb. According to local Chinese this was the third such bombing in the last week but the first one to cause any Chinese casualties. Burmese artillery shells have also landed on the Chinese side of the border.

March 12, 2015: To no one’s surprise China has become the third largest arms exporter in the world, surpassed only by the United States and Russia. Now the top five consists of America, Russia, China, Germany and France. Britain was displaced from the top five in 2012. From 2005-9 China represented three percent of the world arms exports. From 2010-14 China moved up to five percent. Russia and China are the only two exporters that are increasing their arms exports. Sales of the 100 largest weapons and military services firms fell for the third year in a row in 2013 and the situation has not improved since then. While the Russian and Chinese firms are doing very well and the American ones are holding on many European firms are losing ground. Then there’s all the new competition from firms in South Korea, Israel and China. Even the Japanese are changing their laws to allow their arms firms to export.

 

 

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