February 24, 2018  /  Gilad Atzmon


By Eve Mykytyn

Take $3,500 and a one-way ticket to an ‘unnamed’ African country (Rwanda or Uganda) by April 1, or face indefinite imprisonment. This is what Israel told the 40,000 African migrants who have been stuck in limbo in Israel for years. According to the Israeli governmentroughly 20,000 Africans have already been expelled.

On February 21, following the imprisonment of seven Eritreans who refused to leave Israel, 750 African asylum seekers detained at the  Holot detention center began a hunger strike reportedly refusing both food and water.

It seems that Israel has come face to face with one consequence of trying to be a ‘nation like all others’: having to cope with the difficulties of refugees who want the protection of your state without necessarily subscribing to your values.

Israel calls itself the Jewish state (as opposed to a state of its citizens), and actively seeks Jewish immigrants. This has given religious identity  a huge role in Israel, although Israel  is largely secular. Israel has not yet become a ‘nation like all others’  in its treatment of non Jews.  Its 20% Palestinian minority are second-class citizens.*

The African asylum seekers and its Palestinian citizens are not the only non Jewish residents of Israel has who have the potential of conflicting with Israel’s policy of being the Jewish state. Like many wealthy countries, Israel has chosen to import labor for the lower rungs of the pay scale. After the 1967 war, Palestinians crossed into Israel to work in construction and agriculture. Then following the first intifada in 1987, Israel banned most Palestinians  from entering and decided instead to import labor from developing countries. By 2002, there were 226,000 migrant workers living in Israel. Such workers; Thais on farms, Chinese in construction, African street labor and Filipino caregivers are sometimes described as ‘transparents,’  communities invisible to most Israelis. These laborers were never intended to and largely have not been given permanent refuge in Israel.

To keep the migrant population from ‘taking root,’ as Israel’s Interior Ministry puts it, the ministry has devised a byzantine system of barriers. Work permits for foreign caregivers are valid for only five years and three months, and are meant to ensure their presence is transitory. They face additional restrictions on the locations in which they can work, their ability to marry,  to ‘visit’ Israel with family members and in job mobility.

Nonetheless, Israel’s right wing parties see migrant workers as  a direct threat to the country’s Jewish makeup. In 2008, the government moved to deport 1,200 children of undocumented foreign workers. After a public outcry the Israeli government granted amnesty to 800 children of migrant workers who met certain strict criteria.  Other than this trivial number of new permanent residents, Israel has been successful in importing cheap  labor without adding to its non Jewish citizenry.

Israel has taken in a number of Jews from relatively poor backgrounds, particularly Ethiopian Jews.  While these immigrants may present more problems of integration then European or North American Jews, as Jews they fit Israel’s goal of remaining a primarily Jewish state.

In the 1990s over a  million citizens of the former Soviet Union claimed Jewish ancestry and migrated to Israel . They and their progeny now constitute around 15% of Israel’s population of 7.7 million. Many of these immigrants are not Jewish. Anyone from the former Soviet Union who had a Jewish father or grandparent, or who was married to someone meeting those criteria, was granted Israeli citizenship under the country’s liberalized law of return.

According to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics around 30% of immigrants from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s were not Jews or not considered Jewish under Orthodox law  (which treats Judaism as either inherited from the mother or obtained through conversion). In 2005 over 59% of former Soviet immigrants were not Jewish.  Less than 5% of these nonJewish immigrants have converted.

The Russian immigrants initially encountered a scarcity of jobs and housing. They have now achieved near parity with other Israelis and have successfully gained political power. The former Soviets are an important part of Israel’s governing coalition and are relentlessly rightwing, reliably opposing concessions to the Palestinians, supporting settlement expansion and seeking to curb the rights of Israel’s Palestinian population.

Were the non Jewish ex Soviets accepted because they were right wing, because as Europeans they helped Israel to form a stronger bulwark against Palestinians or was it purely racism that allowed Israel to welcome these white skinned immigrants? Those decrying the rise of racism in Europe aroused by recent African immigration might consider adding Israel to their list of reprobates.

The African immigrants do not seem to serve a purpose for the Israelis, either as a political entity or in Israel’s goal of remaining  a Jewish dominated state. Most of the Africans crossed into Israel through the Sinai desert between 2006 and 2012, fleeing harsh political conditions in Eritrea or genocide and war in Sudan. Their stay in Israel has not been easy. Many migrants spent years in the Saharonim prison in the Negev desert and were subsequently transferred to Holot. Some have been briefly released from these facilities to travel to Tel Aviv, only to be sent back again when the Ministry of Interior refused to renew their visas.

Human-rights organizations claim that most or all such migrants have a well-founded fear of persecution in their home countries and are entitled to asylum. Applicants for asylum face a years-long delay due to ‘backlog’ and in any case of the more than 13,000 people who had applied for asylum as of last summer, only 10 have been granted refugee status. Israel recognizes far fewer people in “refugee-like situations” as refugees when compared to almost all Western countries.

The Israeli government has argued that these migrants are not fleeing persecution but are ‘economic’ refugees looking for work in Israel.  “In the last few days, a false campaign [has attempted] to harm the government’s efforts to remove infiltrators from Israel,” wrote Ayelet Shaked, the Israeli minister of justice. “The state of Israel is too small and has its own problems. It cannot be used as the employment office of the African continent.”

Despite protests from Israel’s left, opinion polls suggest that  70 percent of Israel’s Jewish population support Israel’s deportation policy. Possibly such broad support is the result of conditioning, native Israelis may simply see non-Jews within the state as a threat to their safety or to maintaining a Jewish majority. “It’s really hard for them to distinguish between the refugees and the Palestinians they were taught to be against,” said Rabbi Idit Lev, the social-justice director for Rabbis for Human Rights.

But Israel has not entirely behaved as if the migrants have no right to asylum. Although the government argues that the Eritrean and Sudanese migrants are not truly refugees, it has not sent them back to their country of origin as would be proper with economic immigrants. Doing so to refugees would violate international conventions around refugee rights.

The migrants do not want to be deported back to their own countries or to Rwanda. Although Israel pays the migrants to leave,  those who have arrived in Rwanda report that their documents and money were confiscated on arrival and they ended up on the streets.

UNHCR said in a recent report that only nine asylum seekers deported to Rwanda have actually stayed there. What has not been adequately documented is where the refugees have gone from there. The African migrants claim that returning to their country of origin will mean certain death.

Economic immigration presents tough issues to many countries. If Israel is unable to deport the remaining 40,000 African immigrants, it may find itself a little more a country like all others.

* (GA) This doesn’t include the millions of Palestinians who live in Israeli controlled territories, lack any political status and are subject to constant lethal abuse… 



Because Mr Trump… Your Country Caused These ‘Shitholes’

Because Mr Trump… Your Country Caused These ‘Shitholes’

Because Mr Trump… Your Country Caused These ‘Shitholes’

US President Trump’s outrageous remarks on various poor nations – calling them “shitholes” – not only reveal a heartless racist. Donald Trump also shows himself to be appallingly ignorant.

What does it say about our world when the leader of supposedly the most powerful military nation is a complete ignoramus about the most basic facts of history? Surely, this is an horrific danger to all of humanity from having someone so reckless and stupid with access to nuclear weapons.

The global indignation over Trump’s foul denigration continues to mount days after he uttered it. The African Union representing 55 nations has demanded an apology from the president. He is now trying to walk back his incendiary comments in a blatant attempt to lie, which is only fueling more anger.

What’s even more abhorrent is that the vast majority of the countries that Trump was referring to can trace their intractable problems of poverty and violence directly to US involvement in those countries. Yet, he crassly wonders why America has any obligation to shelter people fleeing from them.

During a meeting last Thursday with Republican and Democratic lawmakers in the White House to discuss US immigration policy, Trump reportedly became frustrated when the list of countries receiving Temporary Protected Status (TPS) was read out to him.

Currently there are ten countries afforded TPS by official US immigration controls. Such status permits the entry of a certain quota of citizens.

They are: El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nepal, Nicaragua, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Yemen and Syria.

Trump reportedly blurted out: “What do we want Haitians here for? Why do we want all these people from Africa here? Why are we having all these people from shithole countries coming here?”

He then capped his racist, exploitative view of the world by adding: “We should have more people from places like Norway.”

So, in Trump’s shallow, utilitarian worldview, as long as you are blond, blue-eyed, educated and from a wealthy state then you are welcome in the US to be utilized for its economic growth.

Trump’s disgust with the listed immigrant countries shows his astounding cluelessness, or maybe callousness.

For the fact is that nine of the ten countries afforded TPS – 90 per cent – can attribute their immigration tendency to the legacy of destructive US policies bearing down on those countries.

Only one of them, Nepal, has a humanitarian crisis unrelated directly to American foreign policy, resulting from a natural cause – the earthquake that hit the Himalayan South Asian nation in April 2015.

Let’s quickly review the 90 per cent.

El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua have all been left with a legacy of US-backed wars over several decades. During the 1970s, 80s, and 90s, the US flooded the Central American region with weapons and American-trained death squads to hunt down leftwing guerrillas, politicians, labour activists, peasants, land rights activists, and priests – anyone who was deemed to threaten the traditional US-backed power structure of Caudillo regimes subordinate to American corporations and capital.

It is estimated that US-backed wars killed as many as 200,000 people across Central America, leaving populations traumatized, impoverished and tormented subsequently with armed criminal gangs.

Nicaragua is a poignant case in point. Its leftwing revolutionary Sandinista government – which ousted the decades-old US-backed Somoza dictatorship in 1979 – was destroyed by American proxy war using Contra death squads operating out of Honduras.

Currently, there are some 250,000 Salvadorans living as migrants in the US. Trump wants to send them all back to their country. A recurring fear among the migrants is the rampant violence from armed gangs in El Salvador – a direct legacy of past US military intervention.

It is true that Nicaragua and El Salvador were also hit by earthquakes which have exacerbated humanitarian problems of poverty and social degradation. But arguably the violence and political turmoil fomented in those countries by the US over decades is the major destructive factor in those societies.

The same can be said for Haiti. The Caribbean island country was devastated by an earthquake in 2009, and is reportedly still reeling from the impact. Nevertheless, the intractable poverty and social discord is a legacy of US governments backing decades of dictatorships under Papa Doc and Baby Doc Duvalier. Repeated US military invasions over the past century to repress socially progressive politics ensured that Haiti retained its function as an impoverished offshore location for American corporations to ruthlessly exploit for sweatshop labor.

Regarding African countries on the TPS list, US policy was instrumental in the break-up of Sudan into Northern and Southern states in 2011-2012. That, in turn, has wrecked the economies of both states and fomented conflicts, leading to massive displacement of communities.

Somalia on the Horn of Africa was invaded by US forces in the early 1990s and for the past three decades has been destabilized by relentless American military aggression from naval, air and drone strikes in a so-called “war on terror”.

More generally, Africa’s mass emigrations can also be traced directly to US and NATO European members waging illegal wars in several countries, including Libya, Mali, Niger, Ivory Coast and the Central African Republic. US-backed proxy wars in Angola, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique have too left a baleful legacy.

More generally, it can never be underestimated the extent of underdevelopment that Africa has been historically hobbled with from American and European colonial and neocolonial economic exploitation.

As for the two other “shithole” countries on Trump’s list – Syria and Yemen – they may most acutely represent just how degenerate this president is.

For continuing under his watch in the White House, American criminal military interventions in those countries have caused millions of people to be killed, maimed, starved and displaced. Syria, in particular, has been reduced from a fairly developed society to a pile of rubble by a six-year war instigated and perpetuated covertly by the US and its NATO and regional client regimes.

Yemen has been turned into an apocalyptic hell-hole from nearly three years of American-backed Saudi aggression against that country, including maintaining a sea, air and land blockade on the whole nation – a massive war crime – resulting in millions of children starving or dying from cholera and other preventable diseases. How could any country suffering a veritable genocide not be turned into anything but a “shithole”?

Mr Trump, are you listening or has your brain been turned into a pile of mush from the fast-food diet you gorge every day?

Considering the carnage that US foreign policy and conduct has inflicted around the world in pursuit of American imperialist interests, the Temporary Protected Status list should not comprise ten nations. It should be extended to dozens of – maybe 100 – countries that have borne the vandalism of American power.

Trump’s deprecation of “shithole” countries is a nauseating display of American ignorance and callousness. No wonder the US continues with its wrecking-ball behavior in the world.

As former Mexican President Vicente Fox alluded to in his outrage over Trump’s latest remarks, the biggest, foulest shit-hole in the world is in Washington. Because there they really do have shit for brains and morals.

The U.S. Role in Turning Countries Into ‘Shitholes’


Demonstrators wrapped in a Salvadoran flag during the “A Day Without Immigrants March” in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 17, 2017. (Lorie Shaull / CC 2.0)

Donald Trump just can’t help letting the cat out of the bag. And boy does his administration have a lot of cats in bags. The line of the Republican Party right wing has been that voter suppression laws are necessary for the integrity of elections. In fact, they are crafted to prevent racial minorities from voting, by making it hard and/or expensive to register. Race drives the policy, not a search for fair elections. Likewise, Trump’s policies on immigration have been portrayed as a matter of law and order. But they aren’t about lawlessness. They are about racial hierarchy.

That is, in some key areas—corporate power, racial hierarchy, militarism—the Trump wing of the Republican Party are Franco or Mussolini fascists in ideology.

Trump could go along with the polite fiction that he is worried about criminality when he addresses immigration. But yesterday, according to the Washington Post, he launched a tirade at Sen. Dick Durbin asking why we have to have people here from “shithole” countries and why we can’t have more Norwegians. Trump always used to say on the campaign trail that countries are not sending us their best citizens (as if countries are sending anyone at all intentionally). But now he is admitting that the real problem, in his view, is that it isn’t the best countries that immigrants are coming from.

Trump was badmouthing a whole range of countries including Haiti, El Salvador and some African states, but for the sake of clarity let me home in on El Salvador here.

Since Trump is a racist, he thinks that countries get to have poor economic and security situations because of the race of the people that inhabit them. That is silly (and dangerous) as history and social science. Central Americans were among the more civilized people in the world when German tribesmen were raiding the Roman Empire.

The United States has about 1.5 million Salvadorans, some of the people at issue in Trump’s conversations with Durbin and other lawmakers. Most of them came to the United States because of a right-wing dirty war against liberals and leftists backed in the 1980s and early 1990s by the U.S. Republican presidency (Reagan and Bush senior) and the U.S. military. The right-wing government and military and death squads of El Salvador, with American help, murdered 70,000 civilians in the 1980s, in the course of crushing a leftist insurgency. They included Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero (who will likely end up being made a saint), four American nuns, 800 villagers (children, women, noncombatant men) in El Mozote and environs, and tens of thousands of others. U.S. politicians such as Ronald Reagan, Elliott Abrams, and the joint chiefs of staff and the CIA station chief actively collaborated in this mass killing. The stated purpose was to roll back the Soviet Union (which I doubt was much involved).

The actual purpose was to make the country safe for U.S. corporations, which had virtually run the place. United Fruit owned 80 percent of the banana crop in the early 20th century along with much of the prime land. Then came the rise of the coffee oligarchy. The International Land Coalition notes,

In El Salvador, the history of land ownership has been marked by coffee cultivation. After production of that crop peaked at the end of the 19th century, the Salvadoran oligarchy of the period concentrated land ownership and dispossessed campesino and indigenous peoples of their ancestral lands. During the first half of the 20th century, the alliance between the military government and the United States went hand-in-hand with landed power linked to coffee cultivation. In 1971, the Agricultural Census identified the persis-tence of an unequal distribution of productive land in the country, with 0.3% of owners owning real estate of more than 200 hectares, which represented 28.2% of the total land area, while 92.5% of owners had real estate of less than 10 hectares, representing 27.1% of the country’s total surface area.

Thus, the U.S. corporate shaping of the country’s political economy had left it with a small landlord class that owned most of the good land (a common colonial outcome) and millions of impoverished sharecroppers, and as even right of center analysts recognize this class conflict fueled much of the civil war. But it was also fueled by the sheer viciousness of the government death squads, which weakened the otherwise positive effect of the land reform instituted in the 1980s.

The Reagan civil war in El Salvador provoked massive out migration, to Honduras and to the United States. Many Salvadorans got citizenship in the 1980s via the 1986 congressional amnesty.

In the 1990s, very large numbers of Salvadoran refugees were deported from the United States. The war-racked economy could not absorb them, and some of them founded Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) and the 18th Street Gang which became major criminal cartels that Trump now complains about endlessly. (They are a big problem, especially in El Salvador where they have a support base of eight percent of the country, but very few of the 16,000 murders a year in the U.S. are committed by them).

In the early 1990s about 200,000 Salvadoran refugees of American foreign policy were given Temporary Protected Status. They have high rates of employment and are raising 275,000 U.S.-born children.

So now, having messed up their country, in part for the sake of U.S. corporate greed and American hegemony, the U.S. president is declaring them to be from a “shithole” and is set to deport all 200,000 of the adults, raising the question of what will happen to a quarter of a million American children that they are raising.

The Crisis Group is deathly afraid that the Salvadoran-American children, on being sent forcibly from their country of birth to a foreign land and left without resources are jobs, will be recruited by…MS 13.

By the way, the current government of El Salvador, which runs a country the size of Massachusetts with a population of about six million, has some achievements despite the severe challenges of pervasive gang violence. Poverty has been significantly reduced in the past decade, leading to a lower Gini coefficient and one of the more equal societies in Latin America. The environmentally conscious government has banned predatory metals mining, against which villagers had been protesting. But one of the country’s big assets economically has been remittances from workers abroad, into which Trump is about to take a big bite by deporting 200,000 of them from the U.S. And economic growth, at two percent a year, was already among the lowest in the region and is one of the reasons for the ongoing violence.

The World Bank notes,

Immunization rates have also increased from 76 percent in the 1990s to 93 percent in 2016. Similarly, the share of the population with access to improved water sources increased from 79 percent to 89 percent, and the share with access to improved sanitation expanded from 56 percent to over 95 percent during the same period. In education, both access (particularly at the primary level) and literacy rates have increased.

Crime and violence are still an enormous problem. If Trump wanted less immigration from El Salvador he could get it by directing some productive investment to that country much more efficiently than throwing people out of their homes of 20 years.

One short answer to Trump’s question about Norwegians (and could you get more American Nazi Party than that preference?) is that Norwegians are wealthy and have a much better run country than the U.S. and they mostly have no particular reason to leave home. It isn’t the nineteenth century any more, Donald. The U.S. takes in about a million legal immigrants every year. In the past two decades roughly 61,000 a year have come from Europe. And Norway ain’t in the picture.

The alternative to taking in immigrants is to shrink demographically, as Japan is doing and as Germany was doing before the recent change in immigration policy. Urban, educated people don’t want a house full of children usually, and so the Japanese are not replacing themselves, and nor would Americans without immigration. A big shrinkage of the population of the sort in which Japan is engaged is an unprecedented social experiment. Who will support the growing ranks of the elderly and retired? Who will build new buildings? What will happen to property prices as houses and schools empty out? Who will serve in the military? Who will invent new technology? Wouldn’t the country become weak economically and militarily and perhaps prey for a younger, more dynamic neighbor? And, no, Trump, Norway is not going to save you from all that. Salvadoran Americans might, if you let them.

Juan Cole / Informed Comment
Juan Cole

U.S. Military Massacred Civilians in Somalia

U.S. Military Massacred Civilians in Somalia
By Tatenda Gwaambuka

Bombshell Report: American Military Massacred Civilians in Somalia

On the 25th of August, the United States of America’s military led an operation in Somalia’s Bariire region that resulted in the death of 10 civilians and at least one child on the 25th of August. It was a massacre whose taint on the U.S. forces’ reputation can be compared to the Black Hawk Down incident of 1993. The victims of the operation were farmers and in its wake, hundreds of people in the Somali town of Afgoye protested, demanding justice for those killed. Survivors refused to bury the dead until the Somali government withdrew allegations that they were members of Al-Shabab and paid reparations. This was revealed in a Daily Beast report written by Christina Goldbaum.

Here’s what we learnt:

U.S. Military Lies About its Operations in Africa

AFRICOM claims all its soldiers do is advise, assist and in very limited circumstances, accompany missions. This implies that U.S. soldiers do not go in the front line yet that is exactly what happened in Somalia. The Daily Beast report says U.S. Special Operators fired upon unarmed civilians as bullet casings found on the scene were American, instructed Somali counterparts to collect weapons stored inside a home and place them beside the bodies of those killed before photographing them. American diplomats are said to have also pressured the Somali government to bury unfavorable findings of a Somali Federal Government investigation. This is the height of dishonesty.

U.S. Intelligence is not as reliable as we think

The operation in Somalia is said to have been based on information from unreliable sources. The U.S. soldiers got their information from a Somali National Army brigade leader who is a former Al Shabab commander as well as from a militia leader who is in direct rivalry to the clan of the killed farmers. The translator they used was the same person who they used in another operation that resulted in the death of civilians. These three may have misled the U.S soldiers who are also to blame for their lapse in vigilance. The military was thus sucked into what seems to be a local clan conflict.

Predictably, however, the United States Military denied the claims.

This article was originally published by The African Exponent


Ron Paul Reminds Americans The US Military Is Occupying 53 Of 54 African Nations

Ron Paul 

  While many Americans are aware that the United States is at war in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan because of the media attention given to those conflicts, the news that four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger came as a surprise that left some asking the question, “Since when is the U.S. at War with Africa?”

 Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright were killed on Oct. 4, after their team was reportedly ambushed by “ISIS-affiliated militants traveling by vehicle, carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.”

Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul weighed in on the situation, and noted that this appears to be one more war the U.S. is fighting without approval from Congress—and it is a war that includes the presence of U.S. troops in 53 out of the 54 nations in Africa.

“Now, when the Pentagon and the administration have had some pressure on them, you know, instead of having 100 people there, they’re admitting we have 6,000 people in Africa, and they even put a number on it. They say ‘we have some military in 53 of the 54 countries in Africa.’ That’s pretty expansive,” Paul said.

While South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, a devoted war hawk and member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, initially admitted that he was not aware the U.S. had troops in Niger before news of the attack surfaced, he immediately pledged his support to yet another military conflict created by the United States.

“The war is morphing,” Graham said. “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field.”

In response to the attack and to the public relations scandal that has followed as Americans learn they are funding military operations in Africa, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford claimed that the U.S. has had troops stationed in Niger “on and off” for more than 20 years with the purpose to “defeat violent extremism in West Africa.”

“This area is inherently dangerous,” Dunford said. “We’re there because ISIS and Al Qaeda are operating in that area.”

As Ron Paul noted, the U.S. is still using the Authorization for Use of Military Force that was passed after 9/11 and intended to be used to go after the suspected terrorists responsible for the attacks.

“That’s not unusual for governments to distort and use laws differently than even what Congress says. Congress writes a law and then the executive branch writes regulations, and that same principle applies to foreign policy. They say, ‘Well you can go and do this,’ but there’s no limit. That just initiates it. Nobody even talks about the War Powers Resolution—not that that was the solution, but it was this idea that there was supposed to be a little more oversight after the Vietnam War. But that doesn’t even come up for discussion.”

The AUMF that was passed in 2001 has been used and abused over the last 16 years to fit each and every military conflict the U.S. decides to pursue. Instead of focusing on one group, the U.S. has applied the authorization to any situation in which the trigger phrases Al-Qaeda, ISIS, or Islamic terrorism are included, and U.S. officials are now scrambling to find a way to make that definition fit, in order to justify military presence in Africa.

Watch Ron Paul’s comments in full:





Written and produced by SF Team: Brian Kalman, Daniel Deiss, Edwin Watson

China has begun construction of the first Type 075 Class Landing Helicopter Dock (LHD). Construction most likely started in January or February of this year, with some satellite imagery and digital photos appearing online of at least one pre-fabricated hull cell. The Type 075 will be the largest amphibious warfare vessel in the Peoples’ Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), with similar displacement and dimensions as the U.S. Navy Wasp Class LHD. The PLA has also made it known that the force plans to expand the current PLA Marine Corps from 20,000 personnel to 100,000.

As China completes preparations for its new military base in Djibouti, located in the strategic Horn of Africa, it has also continued its substantial investment in developing the port of Gwadar, Pakistan. Not only will Gwadar become a key logistics hub as part of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and the “One Belt, One Road” trade initiative, but will also be a key naval base in providing security for China’s maritime trade in the region.  When these developments are viewed in conjunction with the decision to reduce the size of the army by 300,000 personnel, it is obvious that China has reassessed the strategic focus of the nation’s armed forces.

The PLAN’s intends to expand the current force structure of the PLA Marine Corps fivefold, from two brigades to ten brigades. At the same time, the PLAN will be increased in size and capabilities, with many new, large displacement warships of varying types added to the fleet. Of particular interest, are the addition of at least two Type 055 destroyers, an indigenously designed and built aircraft carrier of a new class, two more Type 071 LPDs, and the first Type 075 LHD.

China is rapidly gaining the ability to project power and naval presence at increasing distances from its shores. Not only is the PLAN expanding in tonnage, but its new vessels are considerably more capable. The PLAN will be striving to add and train an additional 25% more personnel over the next half a decade, in an effort to add the skilled crews, pilots, and support personnel that will facilitate such an ambitious expansion.

The Chinese military leadership previously decided to double the number of AMIDs starting in 2014. A 100% increase in the PLA AMIDs and a 500% increase in the PLAMC denotes a major strategic shift in the defense strategy of the Chinese state. With the successful growth of the Silk Road Economic Belt/Maritime Silk Road Initiative, it becomes readily apparent that China must focus on securing and defending this global economic highway. China has made a massive investment, in partnership with many nations, in ensuring the success of a massive system of economic arteries that will span half of the globe. Many of these logistics arteries will transit strategic international maritime territories. In light of these developments, a military shift in focus away from fighting a ground war in China, to a greater maritime presence and power projection capability are quite logical.

China began construction of a maritime support facility in Djibouti in 2016, to protect its interests in Africa, facilitate joint anti-piracy operations in the region, and to provide a naval base to support long range and extended deployments of PLAN assets to protect the shipping lanes transiting the Strait of Aden. In addition, China invested approximately $46 billion USD in developing the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, including major investment in the infrastructure of the port of Gwadar. The governments of both nations desire the stationing of a flotilla of PLAN warships in the port, and possibly a rapid reaction force of PLA Marines. Gwadar is well positioned to not only protect China’s economic interests in Pakistan, but also to react to any crisis threatening the free passage of maritime traffic through the Strait of Hormuz. The forward positioning of naval forces will allow the PLAN to protect the vital crude oil and natural gas imports transiting the Suez Canal, the Gulf of Aden and into the Indian Ocean from routes west of the Horn of Africa. In light of the fact that 6% of natural gas imports and 34% of crude oil imports by sea to China transit this region, the desire to secure these waterways becomes readily apparent. Not only would the presence of PLAN warships and marines help to secure China’s vital interests in Pakistan and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor in particular, but would also afford the PLAN a base of operations close to the Strait of Hormuz. Approximately 51% of all Chinese crude oil imports by sea transit the strait, as well as 24% of seaborne natural gas imports. Any closure of the Strait of Hormuz due to a theoretical military conflict or an act of terrorism or piracy would have a huge impact on the Chinese economy.

Although the maritime trade routes transiting the Indian Ocean are of vital importance to keeping the manufacturing engine of China running uninterrupted, the South China Sea is of even greater importance. Not only does the region facilitate the passage of $5 trillion USD in global trade annually, but much of this trade is comprised of Chinese energy imports and exports of all categories. The geographic bottle neck of the Strait of Malacca, to the southwest of the South China Sea, affords the transit of 84% of all waterborne crude oil and 30% of natural gas imports to China. The closure of the strait, or a significant disruption of maritime traffic in the South China Sea, would have a devastating impact on the Chinese state. It is in the vital national interest of China to secure the region based on this fact alone. In addition, establishing a series of strategically located island outposts, covering the approaches to the South China Sea, affords China a greater ability to secure the entire region, establish Anti-Access/Area Denial (A2/AD) and defend the southern approaches to the Chinese mainland, while enforcing the nation’s claims to valuable energy and renewable resources in the region.

China continues to expand and reinforce its island holdings in both the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos. The massive construction on Mischief Reef, Fiery Cross Reef and Subi Reef will likely be completed later this year. These three islands, in conjunction with the surveillance stations, port facilities and helicopter bases located on a number of key smaller atolls, afford China the capability to project power and presence in the region at a level that no other regional or global power can match.

As China moves forward in expanding the PLAMC and the amphibious divisions of the PLA, it has maintained a swift schedule in shipbuilding which aims to provide a balanced and flexible amphibious sealift capability. China intends to tailor a modern and sizable amphibious warfare fleet that is capable of defending the growing maritime interests of the nation, and which can provide a significant power projection capability that can be employed across the full breadth of the Maritime Silk Road.

The first two classes of amphibious vessels that were seen as essential to design, construct and supply to the PLAN were the Type 072A class Landing Ship Tank (LST) and the Type 071 class Landing Platform Dock (LPD). There are a total of six Type 071 LPDs planned, with four currently in service and the fifth vessel reaching completion this year.

Plans to build a large LHD began in 2012, with a number of different designs contemplated. The class was known in intervening years as the Type 075 or Type 081. The Type 075 design was finalized and plans were made to begin construction in 2016. Although many analysts believe that the PLAN intends to build two such vessels, there will most likely be a need for one or two additional vessels of this class to meet the growing maritime security and power projection requirements of the nation. All signs point to the PLAN’s intentions of establishing two to three Amphibious Ready Groups (ARGs), as they have slowly and methodically developed a modern amphibious warfare skillset over the past two decades. They have taken a similar approach to establishing a modern carrier-based naval aviation arm.

From what is known, the Type 075 will displace 40,000 tons, have an LOA of 250 meters, and a beam of 30 meter. The Type 075 will be fitted with a large well deck, allowing for amphibious operations by LCACs, AAVs, and conventional landing craft. Each LHD could theoretically carry approximately 1,500 to 2,000 marines, a full complement of MBTs and AAVs (approximately 25-40 armored vehicles), 60 to 80 light vehicles, and ample cargo stowage space. The helicopter compliment will most likely consist of approximately 20 Z-8 transport helicopters, two Z-18F ASW helicopters, one or two Ka-31 AEW helicopters, four Z-9 utility helicopters, and possibly 6 to 8 naval versions of the Z-10 attack helicopter. With no VSTOL fixed wing attack aircraft in service, the PLAN would most likely opt for using a rotary wing attack element for the LHDs.

China has been slowly and methodically building the foundations of economic and military security and is offering those nations that cooperate as part of the New Silk Road/Maritime Silk Road a seat at the table. In order to create a mutually beneficial trade and transportation network, one that may soon supersede or compete against others, China must secure its vital interests, backed up by military force, and build a viable and sustainable naval presence in key maritime regions.

China has clearly signaled that its defense strategy is changing. The Chinese leadership feels that the sovereignty of mainland China is secure and is shifting focus to securing the vital maritime trade lifeline that not only ensures the security of the nation, but will allow China to increase its economic prosperity and trade partnerships with a multitude of nations.

Whether the United States decides to stand in the way of China’s growth or chooses to participate more constructively in a mutually beneficial relationship is yet to be determined. Without a doubt, China has set its course and will not deviate from this course unless some overwhelming force is brought to bear.


5-way (Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa, China) televised debate on BRICS (MUST SEE!)

September 02, 2017

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