China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

EDITOR’S CHOICE | 07.02.2017

China: The Real Winner of the 2016 Election

Can the U.S.-China relationship survive a Twitter president?

Thomas J. SHATTUCK

After a president of the United States takes office, he normally enjoys what is called a “honeymoon period,” which is when the public and Congress generally approve of his actions and policies. During this time period, the president often receives high approval ratings. The same can be said for the relationship between the president and foreign leaders. They, too, grant him time to understand the intricacies of the position and get a feel for how the United States works with their respective countries. The U.S. president receives much goodwill from many actors in order to ensure a smooth transition between administrations. With President Donald Trump, it does not appear that there will be much of a honeymoon period with the American public or even with some foreign countries—particularly the People’s Republic of China.

All signs point to China taking advantage of the transition between administrations, and Trump’s inexperience at governing, to have its own sort of honeymoon. The Chinese—along with the rest of the world—face a similar situation. Other countries will wait to see what form a Trump presidency takes. Will his actions and policies be as aggressive as his tweets? Will his online Twitter persona differ from face-to-face interactions and negotiations with foreign leaders? At the same time, they will wait to see which of Trump’s foreign-policy campaign promises and statements will take precedent over others. Which region will he focus on? Which bilateral relationships will he view as most important? Which countries will be ignored at the get-go? How will he respond to aggression by another country? While other countries adopt a wait-and-see approach, China will test the limits of Trump’s patience.

The failures of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, and Trump’s promise not to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, give China the opportunity to become the major power in the region. Its Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership will become the dominant multilateral trade organization in Asia, and the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank and the “One Belt One Road” initiative will ensure that all trade is centered on China. It has the mechanisms in place to dominate Asia economically and militarily as a Trump administration seeks to disengage from the world.

China Sets an Early Tone

After China seized a U.S. underwater drone in December 2016, Trump responded to the situation with harsh tweets against China’s actions. In response to Trump, the Global Times, a newspaper run by the Communist Party in China, published an op-ed that expressed the country’s rationale for dealing with the impending Trump presidency. “Trump is not behaving as a president who will become master of the White House in a month,” the op-ed states. “He bears no sense of how to lead a superpower. . . . One thing for sure is that Trump has no leverages to maneuver the world, nor can he reshape China-U.S. relations and the way the two major powers interact. . . . If he treats China after assuming office in the same way as in his tweets, China will not exercise restraint.” Recent actions taken by China indicate that it will continue its push for an increased presence throughout Asia and the Pacific, and it certainly will amp up pressure against Japan, Taiwan and claimants of islands in the South China Sea.

Since Trump’s victory in November 2016, China has incrementally increased its military presence throughout the region. In late November, the People’s Liberation Army Air Force conducted a flyby through the Miyako Strait, south of Okinawa. This move prompted the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force to scramble its jets. While the PLAAF did not enter Japanese airspace, the Chinese have increased the number of such flybys in 2016, angering Japan. Another such incident occurred in December. That time, both Japanese and Chinese government officials accused one another of engaging in dangerous activities that threatened the lives of the pilots. Then, in early January, both South Korea and Japan had to scramble their jets after Chinese aircraft flew between the two countries and over the Sea of Japan. According to Japan, the number of times it has had respond to Chinese aircrafts by scrambling its Defense Force has almost doubled from 2015.

Also, China has ramped up its military presence vis-à-vis Taiwan. Before and after the infamous “Trump call,” China flew H-6K bombers—capable of carrying nuclear weapons—around the island. The pre–Trump call mission was the first time that Chinese aircraft encircled Taiwan. Then, two weeks later, Chinese aircraft conducted a similar mission using the same types of aircraft. The Taiwanese air force tracked and photographed the planes during the entire mission. At no point in either mission did Chinese aircraft breach Taiwanese airspace, but these missions indicate an ever-encroaching Chinese military presence beyond the Taiwan Strait. These two missions show Chinese power not only to Taiwan, but also to the United States.

And China’s strategy is not limited to flybys. In early January, China sailed its only aircraft carrier into the open waters of the Pacific Ocean and also into the Taiwan Strait. Though the carrier remained in the western part of the strait, Taiwan still launched F-16 jets and a frigate to monitor the situation. The Taiwan Strait is international waters, so the United States does not have a problem with such a maneuver as long as China abides by international laws. However, the timing is no coincidence, since it occurred as Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen was out of country on a series of state visits in Central America. It also came after another Global Times op-ed called for an increase in China’s maritime capabilities.

China became even more active in the Asia-Pacific region in 2016 than in previous years, but since the election of Donald Trump, it has conducted even more drills and exercises, which have caused Japan, Taiwan and South Korea to respond in kind. As the op-ed above promised, China has been resolute and has not let other countries’ protests and responses affect its plans.

Expect the Expected

With Donald Trump in office on January 20, the Chinese can no longer expect the measured, diplomatic responses of the Obama administration. Its recent actions in the region were tests to see what a President Trump would do in response to military drills targeted at its neighbors and a show of force to demonstrate that China will not allow the change in U.S. administrations to affect its own interests. The flybys near Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, along with the Liaoning carrier’s journey, did not warrant a response from Trump, but the Chinese seizure of a U.S. underwater drone did. He has only responded to provocations directed by China against the United States, but not toward its allies or friends. His responses and nonresponses have not gone unnoticed.

Throughout Trump’s first year in office, expect China to do much of the same with some twists. Expect more nationalistic overtones used in the rationale for any perceived aggressive actions. Expect newspapers and party officials to ratchet up anti-Taiwan rhetoric. Expect more frequent flybys near Japan and South Korea. Expect more Chinese surveillance missions to circumnavigate Taiwan. Expect Chinese aircraft to fly closer to the airspaces of these countries and their defense zones. Expect the Liaoning’s next journey through the Taiwan Strait to be closer to the “Taiwan side” or have more flourish. Expect China to be more aggressive in its claims in the South and East China Seas. Expect China to continue its current course of action and buildup.

Donald Trump has previously expressed that U.S. allies do not spend enough to defend themselves, so it is unlikely that he will care much about China annoying its neighbors as long as it does not directly threaten the United States. Make no mistake: China does not desire to start a war with the United States or drag it into one. Despite any chest-thumping by either country, the United States and China both need each other to thrive economically. China does, however, want to dominate the region and be recognized as the true power that it is.

As the Trump presidency unfolds, expect China to take advantage of that same honeymoon period. China has a limited timeframe to assert itself vis-à-vis Trump and the Asia-Pacific region. Expect China to have a different sort of honeymoon.

nationalinterest.org

2017: A Year of Transition and Trouble

December 24, 2016 (Tony Cartalucci – NEO) – Predictions aside, there are obvious trends, plots, and paradigm shifts that will continue onward into the new year, that geopolitical observers should be distinctively aware of.

1. The War in Syria is Not Over 

The United States conspired as early as 2007 to overthrow the government of Syria through the use of armed militants – particularly those aligned to Al Qaeda and who enjoy state sponsorship from America’s Persian Gulf allies.

The goal of eliminating the Syrian government was not an isolated objective, but rather fits into a much larger geopolitical agenda – including the overthrow of the Iranian government and the movement of militant proxies back into southern Russia and even into western China.

Russia’s involvement in the Syrian conflict, and the duration of the conflict itself complicates, even sets back US efforts toward these ends, but Washington and Wall Street’s desire for global hegemony will simply see these plans attempt to adapt and overcome current setbacks.

According to the Brookings  Institution’s 2009 policy paper, “Which Path to Persia? Options for a New American Strategy Toward Iran,” one option proposed includes the US arranging with Israel for Israeli forces to conduct what would appear to be a unilateral attack on Iran.

The paper states:

…the most salient advantage this option has over that of an American air campaign is the possibility that Israel alone would be blamed for the attack. If this proves true, then the United States might not have to deal with Iranian retaliation or the diplomatic backlash that would accompany an American military operation against Iran. It could allow Washington to have its cake (delay Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon) and eat it, too (avoid undermining many other U.S. regional diplomatic initiatives).

For this to be convincing, the US and Israel would need to feign a diplomatic fallout, one the current administration of US President Barack Obama has been performing and just recently ratcheted up at the UN Security Council. With President-elect Donald Trump – undeniably and very publicly pro-Israel – coming into office in January, the window is closing for this option to be convincing.

 

 One aspect of a covertly US-backed Israeli attack on Iran includes an opportunity for the US to subsequently intervene militarily if Iran were to retaliate. It is essentially a trap baited for Tehran. The trap could be sprung before President Obama leaves office, and US military intervention executed as President-elect Trump enters office.

Of course, Iran now possesses Russian S-300 anti-air defense systems, has a more formidable army today than when Brookings and other US policymakers first concocted war plans against Tehran, and the dynamics in the region have changed considerably as well. However, President-elect Trump has surrounded himself both during his campaign for president and amongst his incoming cabinet, with men who have promoted war with Iran for years.

This is perhaps one of the first, and greatest dangers that will need to be navigated around in 2017.

2. Economic Paradigm Shift, Driven by Technology 

It could be easily said that alternative energy and electric cars are already creating shifting trends in global economics and the geopolitical power derived from it. The cost and proliferation of solar power continues to favor its use against traditional forms of power production, and electric cars are finally being taken seriously by traditional manufacturers in the face of stiff competition from newcomers like Tesla Motors.

Nations that depend on petroleum and other fossil fuels for a substantial fraction of their GDP will need to begin planning how they will navigate what will inevitably be a total transition away from these sources of energy.

Automation is also a growing economic trend. Jobs are being taken from workers from North America to Asia by increasingly capable robots and forms of computer-controlled manufacturing. However, another component of this shifting trend is a drastic drop in prices and an exponential climb in capabilities of these automated systems. This makes it possible for smaller companies to use automation to manufacture locally, disrupting industrial monopolies and distribute the wealth obtained through automation through local entrepreneurship.

An example of this is 3D printing – with some machines with price tags comparable to a desktop computer. People working as freelance designers can now also include – and profit from – physical prototyping services once only possible from larger firms. As automated systems drop in cost and improve in capabilities, local companies will be able to do more with less, decentralizing manufacturing from the current, globalized model that now defines it.

How nations manage this transition – from China to Europe to the United States – will determine how much social upheaval is created as automation continues to take over. Those nations with highly unskilled workforces and with weak, inflexible education systems will suffer most, while those who retrain their populations to be designers and local entrepreneurs will survive, even thrive.

3. The Rise of Artificial Intelligence 

Science fiction horror stories aside, artificial intelligence (AI) in the form of machine learning, is already taking over a large number of highly specialized tasks – and doing them far better than traditional computers or human workers could ever do.

These tasks include everything from energy efficiency studies and automation, providing advice to doctors, and gaming financial markets, to providing protocols for advanced genetic engineering and image recognition and automatic tagging on social media websites like Facebook. Other possible applications include teaching AI systems to hack faster and more adaptively than any human could. AI systems are also being taught to write news articles and even manage social media accounts like Twitter.

While AI will not manifest itself as sentient machines seeking to usurp humanity yet, these highly focused uses of AI give their human operators uncontested advantages in whatever realm they are applied in. An AI arms race of sorts has erupted, and in 2017, AI will increasingly be used to provide world leaders in AI research and development economic and geopolitical edges over their competitors and enemies.

A balance of power must be struck between nations and within nations to prevent the very sort of technological disparity that left the United States in 1945 as the only nation wielding atomic weapons. With that uncontested advantage, the US dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, killing hundreds of thousands of people. It would use its advantage in the field of nuclear weapons as leverage geopolitically for years – threatening to use the weapons everywhere from the Korean Peninsula to Vietnam.

The sort of damage caused by such disparity in the field of AI cannot be predicted – but what can be predicted with absolute certainty, is that any advantage the world affords aspiring hegemons like the US, will be used and abused eagerly and without hesitation.

4. China and Asia Still Face American Designs for Regional Primacy 

The United States’ “pivot to Asia” has turned into a second front in its global quest for hegemony. In order to encircle and contain the rise of China, the US has committed to series of economic, politically subversive, and military maneuvers throughout Southeast and East Asia.

In 2017, the US will continue cultivating proxy opposition fronts across the region in hopes of challenging or toppling increasingly Beijing-friendly governments everywhere from Malaysia and Thailand, to the Philippines and Indonesia. In Myanmar, the US and its Saudi allies appear to be inflaming the Rohingya crisis by arming militants to fight the very government the US spent decades putting into power.

The result will be an attempt to establish a US military presence in Myanmar under the guise of “combating terrorism,” just as the US did in the Philippines shortly after 2001. In reality, the US military presence in Myanmar will be next to impossible to remove – just as it has become in the Philippines. And while “fighting terrorism” will be the pretext, adding another point of pressure in America’s encirclement of China will be the main objective.

The prospect of direct military confrontation between the US and China is difficult to predict, but US policymakers have admitted that as time passes, the possibility of the US winning any confrontation against China in Asia Pacific diminishes. The temptation to provoke a conflict sooner than later will exist, and regardless, the decades-long efforts by Washington to maintain primacy in Asia at Asia’s expense will continue in earnest under President-elect Trump when he takes office.

The agendas of powerful special interests and the march of technological progress and its impact on human civilization are not divided into neat chapters as they appear in retrospect upon the pages of our history books. They transcend “New Years,” presidential administrations, popular culture, and even “eras” in our collective history. Understanding the actual motives, money, and machinations that drive those with wealth and power help us see what lies before us and gives us a chance to prepare ourselves and intervene rather than sit by as helpless spectators. This year, perhaps more people than ever will realize that our best interests, and even the fate of our future depends on us doing the former, and abandoning forever the latter.

Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine New Eastern Outlook.”   

What Does Trump Victory Mean for Asia? Nothing New

November 9, 2016 (The New Atlas) – With the victory of Donald Trump during the 2016 US presidential elections, many commentators, analysts and academics have “predicted” a more isolationist America. For Asia specifically, particularly those in need of US intervention to prop up their unpopular, impotent political causes, they fear an ebbing of US support.

However, as history has shown, the whims of US voters rarely has an impact on US foreign policy, particularly amidst the more subtle use of US “soft power.”

US policy toward Asia has been a historical, socioeconomic and military continuum marked by a consistent desire for geopolitical and socioeconomic primacy in the region stretching back for over a century. Since World War 2, the US has attempted to contain a rising China, temper and exploit emerging developing nations across Southeast Asia and prevent nations subjugated to US domination (Japan, South Korea and the Philippines) from achieving anything resembling an independent foreign and domestic policy.

This is a continuum that has transcended presidential administrations and congressional shifts of power for decades.

To believe that the recent victory by Donald Trump amid America’s 2016 presidential election will suddenly change this decades-long continuum is naive and folly.

The networks that primarily seek to establish, protect and expand US primacy in Asia are driven by corporate and financial special interests including banks, the energy industry, defence contractors, agricultural and pharmaceutical giants, the US entertainment industry and media as well as tech giants.

They achieve primacy through a variety of activities ranging from market domination through incremental advances in “free trade,” the funding of academic and activist groups through organisations like the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Open Society, Freedom House and USAID as well as direct pressure on the governments of respective Asian states through both overt and covert political, economic and military means.

This is a process that takes place independent of both the White House and the US Congress.

Regardless of how elections turn out, this process will continue so long as the source of these collective special interests’ power remains intact and unopposed.

For Asian states, in the wake of Trump’s victory, keeping track of and dealing with the actual networks used to project American primacy into Asia Pacific is more important than weighing the isolationist rhetoric of president-elect Donald Trump.

Until networks like NED and USAID are either entirely reformed or dismantled, and Asian alternatives are able to permanently displace US economic and institutional domination in the region, the threat of American primacy asserting itself over the interests of Asia itself will persist.

The New Atlas is a media platform providing geopolitical analysis and op-eds. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

China, Russia must join hands to counter USA in Asia

China, Russia must join hands to counter US in Asia: Chinese state media

4:51 am

South Korean protesters hold placards during a rally against the deployment of the advanced U.S. missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula, called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, April 1, 2015 [Xinhua]

South Korean protesters hold placards during a rally against the deployment of the advanced U.S. missile defense system on the Korean Peninsula, called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), in front of the National Assembly in Seoul, South Korea, April 1, 2015 [Xinhua]

Chinese state media on Friday urged Moscow and Beijing to join  hands to offset the growing threat posed by the deployment of a US anti-missile defence system in South Korea and a possible deployment in Japan.

“It is only a matter of time before Japan has THAAD on its soil,” an editorial in the Global Times warned.

“Washington is ambitious to build a global anti-missile system so missile activities in China and Russia can be put under close surveillance, which will disable China and Russia’s strategic nuclear deterrence against the US,” it said.

Beijing has said Washington’s decision last month to deploy a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system would only worsen tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Both Russian and Chinese Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Wang Yi have criticised the US move.

On Friday, Beijing newspaper Global Times, known for its strident editorials, questioned why the US was deploying new anti-ballistic missile stronghold in Northeast Asia with an excuse of dealing with threats of the North Korean nuclear and missile programs.

“As THAAD is approaching its doorstep, China must speed up the upgrading of its offensive weaponry to offset the threat caused by the US global anti-missile system,” the editorial of the influential Chinese daily published by the ruling Communist Party argued on Friday.

A US-Japan-South Korea coterie linked by THAAD is forming in Asia that could threaten peace in the region, the state-run paper warned.

“China and Russia should cooperate on the joint work of developing strategic offensive weaponry, and acquire an overwhelming advantage against the US anti-missile system. Both countries can conduct military simulations, which can include strategic nuclear weapons, against THAAD,” it added.

Editorials of state-owned media in China, like Global Times, generally reflect the Communist Party viewpoint.

After a UN Security Council meeting last week, US envoy to the UN, Samantha Power, rejected suggestions the decision to deploy the anti-missile defence system in South Korea had provoked ballistic missile tests by North Korea.

China and Russia have increased their security, economic and diplomatic relationship in recent years.

Even as the US continues with what it calls “freedom of navigation” exercises in the South China Sea, China has got support from Moscow on the dispute.

Attempts to internationalize the issue must be stopped, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said repeatedly in the last few weeks.

“I am convinced that they (attempts to internationalize the issue) are completely counterproductive,” said Lavrov. “Only negotiations, which China and the ASEAN are pursuing can bring the desired result, namely, mutually acceptable agreements.”

The Pentagon’s Great Wall of Impotence

Pepe Escobar
Pepe Escobar is an independent geopolitical analyst. He writes for RT, Sputnik and TomDispatch, and is a frequent contributor to websites and radio and TV shows ranging from the US to East Asia. He is the former roving correspondent for Asia Times Online. Born in Brazil, he’s been a foreign correspondent since 1985, and has lived in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Washington, Bangkok and Hong Kong. Even before 9/11 he specialized in covering the arc from the Middle East to Central and East Asia, with an emphasis on Big Power geopolitics and energy wars. He is the author of “Globalistan” (2007), “Red Zone Blues” (2007), “Obama does Globalistan” (2009) and “Empire of Chaos” (2014), all published by Nimble Books. His latest book is “2030”, also by Nimble Books, out in December 2015.
© AFP
No one ever lost money betting on the Pentagon refraining from exceptionalist rhetoric.

Once again the current Pentagon supremo, certified neocon Ash Carter, did not disappoint at the Shangri-La Dialogue – the annual, must-go regional security forum in Singapore attended by top defense ministers, scholars and business executives from across Asia.

Context is key. The Shangri-La Dialogue is organized by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), which is essentially a pro-Anglo-American think tank. And it takes place in the privileged aircraft carrier of imperial geostrategic interests in South East Asia: Singapore.

As expressed by neocon Carter, Pentagon rhetoric – faithful to its own estimation of China as the second biggest “existential threat” to the US (Russia is first) – revolves around the same themes; US military might and superiority is bound to last forever; we are the “main underwriter of Asian security” for, well, forever; and China better behave in the South China Sea – or else.

This is all embedded in the much ballyhooed but so far anemic“pivoting to Asia” advanced by the lame duck Obama administration – but bound to go on overdrive in the event Hillary Clinton becomes the next tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Real threats are predictably embedded in the rhetoric. According to Carter, if Beijing reclaims land in the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea, “it will result in actions being taken by the both United States and … by others in the region.”

What’s left for China, in Pentagonese, is just to be a member of a hazy “principled security network” for Asia – which will also help protect the East against “Russia’s worrying actions”. Carter mentioned “principled” no less than 37 times in his speech. “Principled” cheerleaders so far include Japan, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Australia.

So here’s an instant translation: we do a NATO in Asia; we control it; you will answer to us; and then we encircle you – and Russia – for good. If China says no, that’s simple. Carter proclaimed Beijing will erect a “Great Wall of self-isolation” in the South China Sea.

If this is the best Pentagon planners have to counteract the Russia-China strategic partnership, they’d better go back to the classroom. In elementary school.

Navigate in freedom, dear vassals

Predictably, the South China Sea was quite big at Shangri-La. The South China Sea, the throughway of trillions of US dollars in annual trade, doubles as home to a wealth of unexplored oil and gas. Stagnated and increasingly irrelevant Japan, via its Defense Minister Gen. Nakatani, even advanced the Japanese would help Southeast Asian nations build their “security capabilities” to deal with what he called “unilateral” and “coercive” Chinese actions in the South China Sea. Cynics could not help to draw similarities with Imperial Japan’s Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.

The Beijing delegation kept its cool – to a point. Rear Admiral Guan Youfei stressed, “The US action to take sides is not agreed by many countries.” Youfei – the head of the Chinese office of international military cooperation – did not refrain though from condemning a “Cold War mentality” by the usual suspects.

As for Japan, China’s Foreign Ministry detailed that “countries outside the region should stick to their promises and not make thoughtless remarks about issues of territorial sovereignty.” Japan has absolutely nothing to do with the South China Sea.

Beijing’s reclamation work on reefs in the South China Sea naturally put it in direct conflict with Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei. So US meddling – under the convenient cover of “freedom of navigation” – had to be inevitable.“Freedom of navigation” operations are a silly intimidation game in which a US Navy ship or plane passes by a Chinese-claimed island in the South China Sea.

It was up to Admiral Sun Jianguo, Deputy Chief of the Joint Staff Department of China’s Central Military Commission, to cut to the chase, stressing “the provocation of certain countries” and adding that “selfish interests” have led to the South China Sea issue becoming “overheated”. He slammed the Pentagon for double standards and “irresponsible behavior”. And he slammed the Philippines for taking the conflict to a dubious UN arbitration court after breaching a bilateral agreement with China; “We do not make trouble but we have no fear of trouble.”

U.S. Secretary of Defence Ash Carter meets with South Korea's Minister of Defence Han Minkoo (R) and Japan's Minister of Defence Gen Nakatani for a trilateral at the IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore June 4, 2016. © Reuters

The Chinese position prefers dialogue and cooperation – and Jianguo re-stressed it, calling for ASEAN to make a move. In fact China has already reached what is called a four-point consensus with Brunei, Cambodia and Laos on the South China Sea two months ago. The Philippines are a much harder nut to crack – as the Pentagon is taking no prisoners to lead Manila “from behind”.

Even Vietnam, via Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh, made it clear – in the same plenary session as Admiral Jianguo – that Vietnam prefers solutions via the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea as well as negotiation between China and ASEAN.

Bend over to our rules – or else

After Shangri-La’s rhetorical excesses, the action moved to Beijing, the site of the 8th China-US Strategic and Development Dialogue. That’s the annual talkfest launched in 2009 by Obama and then Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zheng Zeguang painted a rosy picture, stressing the exchange of “candid, in-depth views on important and sensitive issues of shared concern.” Chinese Ambassador to the US Cui Tiankai once again needed to point out that the relationship is just “too important” to be “hijacked” by the South China Sea. And yet this is exactly the Pentagon’s agenda.

Beijing though won’t be derailed. As State Councilor Yang Jiechi put it, ASEAN-China dialogue is progressing via what Beijing calls the “dual-track” approach, according to which disputes are negotiated between the parties directly involved. That implies no Washington interference.

Beyond what is discussed either at Shangri-La or at the China-US dialogue, the Big Picture is clear. ‘Exceptionalistan’ planners have molded a narrative where China is being forced to make a choice; either you bend over to “our” rules – as in the current unipolar geostrategic game – or else.

Well, Beijing has already made its own choice; and that entails a multipolar world of sovereign nations with no primus inter pares. The Beijing leadership under Xi Jinping clearly sees how the so-called international “order”, actually disorder, is a rigged system set up at the end of WWII.

Wily Chinese diplomacy – and trade – knows how to use the system to advance Chinese national interests. That’s how modern China became the “savior” of global turbo-capitalism. But that does not mean a resurgent China will forever comply with these extraneous “rules” – not to mention the morality lessons. Beijing knows ‘Exceptionalistan’ would not agree even to divide the spoils in a geopolitical spheres-of-influence arrangement. Plan A in Washington is containment – with possibly dangerous ramifications. There is no Plan B.

The bottom line – thinly disguised by the somewhat polite responses to Pentagon threats – is that Beijing simply won’t accept anymore a geopolitical disorder that it did not create. The Chinese could not give a damn to the New World Order (NWO) dreamed up by selected ‘Masters of the Universe’. Beijing is engaged in building a new, multipolar order. No wonder – alongside with strategic partner Russia – they are and will continue to be the Pentagon’s top twin threat.

Obama: Saudi Eager to Drag US into Grinding Sectarian Conflicts in ME

Local Editor

ObamaUS president Barack Obama stated that Saudi Arabia, one of America’s most important allies in the Middle East, needs to learn how to “share” the region with Iran, adding that KSA has showed eagerness to drag the United States into grinding sectarian conflicts in the region, The New York Times wrote in an article that is based on a series of interviews with The Atlantic magazine published Thursday.

Obama lashed out at Saudi, saying a number of American allies in the Persian Gulf — as well as in Europe — were “free riders,” eager to drag the United States into grinding sectarian conflicts that sometimes had little to do with American interests. He showed little sympathy for the Saudis, who claimed that they have been threatened by the nuclear deal Obama reached with Iran.

According to NYT, the Saudis, Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg, the magazine’s national correspondent, “need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood and institute some sort of cold peace.” The US president said, “would mean that we have to start coming in and using our military power to settle scores. And that would be in the interest neither of the United States nor of the Middle East.”

Obama placed his comments in the context of his broader struggle to extract the United States from the bloody morass of the Middle East so that the nation can focus on more promising, faster-growing parts of the world, like Asia and Latin America, NYT added.

The US paper reported that Obama also said his support of the NATO military intervention in Libya had been a “mistake,” driven in part by his erroneous belief that Britain and France would bear more of the burden of the operation. He stoutly defended his refusal not to enforce his own red line against Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, even though Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. argued internally, the magazine reported, that “big nations don’t bluff.”

The US president disputed criticism that he should have done more to resist the aggression of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia in Ukraine. As a neighbor of Russia, Obama said, Ukraine was always going to matter more to Mr. Putin than to the United States. This meant that in any military confrontation between Moscow and the West, Russia was going to maintain ‘escalatory dominance’ over its former satellite state.

“The fact is that Ukraine, which is a non-NATO country, is going to be vulnerable to military domination by Russia no matter what we do,” he said. “This is an example of where we have to be very clear about what our core interests are and what we are willing to go to war for.”

The portrait that emerges from the interviews is of a president openly contemptuous of Washington’s foreign-policy establishment, which he said was obsessed with preserving presidential credibility, even at the cost of blundering into ill-advised military adventures.

“There’s a playbook in Washington that presidents are supposed to follow,” Mr. Obama said. “And the playbook prescribes responses to different events, and these responses tend to be militarized responses.” This consensus, the president continued, can lead to bad decisions. “In the midst of an international challenge like Syria,” he said, “you are judged harshly if you don’t follow the playbook, even if there are good reasons.”

The paper mentioned that Obama dismissed the argument that his failure to enforce the red line in Syria, or his broader reticence about using military force, had emboldened Russia. Putin, he noted, invaded Georgia in 2008 during the presidency of George W. Bush, even though the United States had more than 100,000 troops deployed in Iraq.

Similarly, the president pushed back on the suggestion that he had not been firm enough in challenging China’s aggression in the South China Sea, where it is building military installations on reefs and islands, some of which are claimed by the Philippines and other neighbors.

“I’ve been very explicit in saying that we have more to fear from a weakened, threatened China than a successful, rising China,” Obama said.

According to NYT, the US president refused to box himself in as a foreign-policy thinker. “I suppose you could call me a realist in believing we can’t, at any given moment, relieve all the world’s misery,” he said. But he went on to describe himself as an internationalist and an idealist. Above all, Obama appeared weary of the constant demands and expectations placed on the United States. “Free riders aggravate me,” he said.

He put France and Britain in that category, at least as far as the Libya operation was concerned. Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, he said, became distracted by other issues, while President Nicolas Sarkozy of France “wanted to trumpet the flights he was taking in the air campaign, despite the fact that we had wiped out all the air defenses.”

The New York Times pointed out that only on the threat posed by ISIL did Obama express some misgivings. The Middle East, Obama claimed, a corrupt metropolis. “Then ISIL comes in and lights the whole city on fire,” Obama said.

Still, Obama acknowledged that immediately after the terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif., he did not adequately reassure Americans that he understood the threat, and was confronting it, NYT noted.

“Every president has his strengths and weaknesses,” he said. “And there is no doubt that there are times where I have not been attentive enough to feelings and emotions and politics in communicating what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”

Source: Newspapers

10-03-2016 – 21:05 Last updated 10-03-2016 – 21:30

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Beware of Bears and Dragons in Their Own Backyards

Beware of Bears and Dragons in Their Own Backyards

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY | 03.03.2016 | WORLD

At the UN General Assembly in September last year President Obama declared without a trace of irony that «History is littered with the failure of false prophets and fallen empires, who believed that might always makes right, and that will continue to be the case. You can count on that».

A week later the US-NATO military alliance approved a plan to double the size of its expeditionary force to 40,000 and decided to create «two more NATO force integration units… in Hungary and Slovakia, in addition to the headquarters already set up in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria and Romania» surrounding Russia. This is a regrettable case of believing that «might always makes right» as these actions are intended for no other purpose than to menace Russia, which Washington considers to be essential for growth of its domestic weapons’ industry and the «military-industrial complex» in general.

(President Dwight D Eisenhower’s Address to the nation in 1961, in which he coined the evocative and damning phrase ‘military-industrial complex’, is rightly regarded as one of the most predictive and far-sighted speeches in US history.)

US Defence Secretary Carter is proud of the fact that the US armed forces have «more than 450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain, in the air, ashore and afloat» – which is more than the total number of troops deployed outside national borders by every other country in the world.

Two weeks after US-NATO announced the most recent of its confrontational threats against Russia, the US Navy destroyer USS Lassen was ordered to conduct a «Freedom of Navigation Operation» in the South China Sea, by sailing close to the territory claimed and occupied by China. This needlessly provocative exploit succeeded only in making it clear to China that it was being challenged militarily in its own backyard by a country that has no territorial rights or interests in the region.

According to Reuters «a senior Obama administration official» said, the aim of the South China Sea confrontation operation was to «advance our strategic objectives in the Pacific region, including on maritime issues».

Modern-day American international perceptions resemble more and more those of the Cold War era, when President Reagan, for example, had an election advertisement showing a predatory bear roaming the woods with the commentary that: «There is a bear in the woods. For some people, the bear is easy to see. Others don’t see it at all. Some people say the bear is tame. Others say it’s vicious and dangerous. Since no one can really be sure who’s right, isn’t it smart to be as strong as the bear?»

It was obvious that the bear was Russia. The dangerously bellicose General Breedlove, military leader of the US-NATO group, «said that for too long, the United States has ‘hugged the bear’ of Russia. But now, he said, it’s time to get tough. This toughness should come in the form of more US troops to Europe, he said, and more ‘high end’ training to prepare American forces for a potential battle against the former cold war foe».

Naturally he ignores the fact that Russia wants to forge mutually beneficial trade ties with its neighbours, and especially with European Union countries, and it would be pointless to try to destroy such economic links.

The bear wants to trade and prosper. But if the bear is prevented from doing so and continues to be maliciously provoked, there might be problems ahead for the «indispensable nation» .

* * *

When contemplating the future, it is advisable to reflect on Napoleon’s reply when asked during his final exile what he considered might be the greatest concern to the world in centuries to come. It is said he declared that this would be «when the Dragon wakes».

Now the Dragon has woken and is being challenged for doing so.

The South China Sea has nine littoral states of which most have sovereignty claims within the Sea, and some are more reasonable than others. The United States has a vast fleet and military bases throughout the western Pacific, surrounding China, just as it menaces Russia in Europe. («450,000 men and women serving abroad, in every domain, in the air, ashore and afloat» as proudly declared by Defence Secretary Carter, who, Forbes states, was «a consultant to defence contractors and when he went back to the Pentagon in 2009, had to get a special waiver because of his work for companies like MITRE Corp, and Global Technology Partners, a defence consulting firm».)

None of the islets in the South China Sea was taken over by imperialists in the days of colonial expansion, but more recently there has been considerable interest in the region. Naturally this is based on economic imperatives, although estimates of the amounts of oil, gas and rare minerals under the waves vary greatly.

No matter what nationalistic advantage may be sought, there is the problem of legally apportioning spots of rock to any one country. The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS; ratified by China – but not by the United States) says sensibly that «Rocks which cannot sustain human habitation or economic life of their own shall have no Exclusive Economic Zone or continental shelf». But if a subaqueous oil gusher spouts a few kilometres away from your tiny lump of rock, you’re going to build a platform on it and grow vegetables and then declare that your rocky paradise is inhabited and self-sufficient. It therefore has an Exclusive Economic Zone extending for 200 nautical miles all round. The US objects to this.

So over the years the US has stepped up its military might in the region – and has now 70 warships, over 300 aircraft and 40,000 Marines to confront China in its own backyard. Washington’s Pentagon chief claims that it does this in the interests of «freedom of navigation» – ignoring the fact that not one single commercial vessel of any nation has been or ever will be prevented by China from traversing the South China Sea. Indeed, it would be commercial suicide for Beijing to even attempt to interfere with such shipping, which carries such vast quantities of China’s exports and imports.

The US is confronting China, and the fact that conflict is looming closer is hardly the fault of the Chinese whose position, in the words of Xinhua, is that «the tree craves calm but the wind keeps blowing». There is one thing certain, however: the Chinese tree will whip back if the Washington wind increases its intensity. China and Russia are aware that the world in general craves calm, but have been forced to realise that the out-of-control US military machine, in an expansionist wave of unprecedented energy, is hell-bent on global domination.

President Obama boasts that the US is «the one indispensable nation in world affairs» but he would be well-advised to exercise care in his policy of aggressive confrontation.

Washington’s war-lovers should bear in mind what Napoleon said two centuries ago, and realise that the Chinese Dragon has woken. And when Dragons wake it’s not altogether clever to threaten them. They had better beware of Bears, too.

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