Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Refuting the absurdity behind claims of the U.S. "raising tensions" in East Asia

The United States seems to be flexing its military muscles in Northeast Asia and the South China Sea for some time now, especially after the sinking of the Republic of Korea's (ROK) corvette, Cheonan, on March 26.
The United States -- and the author of this post -- do not have anything against the Chinese. It is a good thing that hundreds of millions of Chinese have been lifted out of poverty in large part due to the embrace of Communist China by the western world. However, along with this embrace comes the responsibility or expectation that China will soon thereafter become a responsible member of the world community.

China, often critical of past Japanese aggressions, seems to be moving towards a fascist, xenophobic, and ultra-nationalistic state herself. While China is technically "communist," one needs to look no further than North Korea, which has removed all references to communism in its constitution and has put a military first (선군) regime in its place, to see what communism has come to mean in Northeast Asia.

By the way, how does a country go from being a revolutionary communist regime to a hereditary fascist country in half a century. It seems that North Korea has gone so far to the left it emerged back to the far right? (I should reference B.R. Meyers here as I believe I read an interview somewhere where rather than North Korean politics being defined along a singular political spectrum stretching from right to left, it was described in a circular fashion. I may be wrong on the source here.)

But, anyways, to the meat of the argument, as China becomes more prosperous, the country should understand that the rest of the world embraced China not just to make a quick dollar or two, but also to assuage Chinese concerns that the west was out to prevent "China's rise." This argument was often used to support China's entry into the WTO. Since that time it is not hard, though it is hardly reported, as to how far China has deviated from these expectations. China's obstinate attitude towards global climate change, indifference towards terrorism in Afghanistan, and unwillingness to take a position against North Korea's murder of South Korean sailors for the sake of "stability" does bode well for seeing China to be a responsible country that respects her neighbors, let alone take on a position of world or even regional leadership. 

In particular, China's embrace of Myanmar's (Burma) brutal military dictatorship just to secure a port so that one day the country may be able to compete with India and the United States  militarily (or to secure its shipping lanes against a threat that does not exist) is outright ridiculous considering the extent to which China has prospered up until now. The extent to how absurd this is can be seen by how the world's largest democracy, India, has come now to embrace the military dictatorship in Myanmar (Burma) out of fears that the country will soon become a port for Chinese (eople's Liberation Army's Navy ships off India's borders. China's rising military spending is also raising concerns (and probably creating enemies) as its smaller neighbors nervously look on as China becomes ever richer and ever stronger. Furthermore, the Chinese also "invaded" the Spratly islands and regularly harasses firms that do business with other countries. 

But, by far, the  most troubling, worrisome, and, downright, outrageous aspect seems to be how as the rest of the world is recovering from a great recession, China has turned to gloating over how it is now "China's turn" to lead the world rather than seeing how the absorption of the country's products and merchandise had and has lifted millions of her people out of absolute poverty or subsistence living standards . Rather than returning this assistance in kind -- and showing the rest of the world, what a rich and prosperous China is capable of, the Chinese government seems intent to shy away from helping these very same countries recover from a recession or even trading with these countries on fair terms.

It is within this light that the military exercises in East Asia by the United States should be seen. The United States is not a belligerent that is out to get China, but when a country systematically ignores and disrespects the wishes of her much, much smaller neighbors and spends undisclosed sums on a naval military buildup that seems to serve no other purpose than to one day challenge or confront the United States, then it is no wonder that the United States will regularly send spy ships right outside Chinese territorial waters. (In contrast, the Chinese do not seem to respect the right of South Korea to stage military exercises to ostensibly demonstrate that North Korean provocations are not acceptable.) 

I downright reject the notion that the United States is raising tensions in East Asia. What is worrisome is that these types of "news" stories articulate a position that is flat wrong and is an extension of the propaganda arms of either governments, such as China, or, perhaps, the left in a divided country. It is no wonder that countries, such as South Korea and Vietnam, which both share deep cultural affinities with China are hedging their bets. China will not receive the respect the country wishes  or feels it deserves until it shows that same amount of respect back, including to countries that would naturally fall under its cultural and economic "sphere of influence."

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