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February 20, 2014 The new era of military competition in the Pacific will become the defining geopolitical contest of the 21st century High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, o not cut ! "aste the article.
#$P %he launch o& a 'hinese gui e missile estroyer in (hejiang last year %o the list o& in ustries now ominate by 'hina, there is one sur"rising new entry) *iss +orl . ,eauty contests were banne in 'hina by *ao (e ong as one o& the worst &orms o& western eca ence but their blan internationalism a""eals to mo ern 'hina-s esire to be inclu e . .& the last 10 *iss +orl "ageants, &ive have been hel at the seasi e resort o& /anya, on subtro"ical Hainan islan , o&& 'hina-s south coast. +hile the *iss +orl show is in town, the swimsuit "hoto shoots take "lace across the roa , at the /heraton /anya 0esort, which looks out on to the white san s o& 1along ,ay, a crescent2sha"e cove line with "alm trees. +ith a 0it32'arlton on one si e an a *arriott on the other, 1along ,ay is a trans"lant o& multinational tourism on 'hina-s southernmost "oint. %he resort has become hugely "o"ular with "ros"erous 'hinese &amilies an on the ay 4 visite , the hotel was hosting a cor"orate retreat &or
the 'hinese subsi iary o& /yngenta, the /wit3erlan 2base com"any which sells genetically mo i&ie see s. %he hun re or so 'hinese em"loyees s"ent the a&ternoon "laying games on the beach. $s they enjoye themselves, they barely looke u" when a 'hinese %y"e 054 &rigate saile casually across the bay, in "lain view o& the tourists. 1along ,ay, it turns out, has a ouble li&e. %he bran 2name hotels occu"y only one hal& o& the beach6 at the other en lies 'hina-s newest an most so"histicate naval base.
#(hang 1ong&eng %ourists in /anya, Hainan, also home to one o& 'hina-s naval bases 1along ,ay is where the two si es o& 'hina-s rise now intersect) its ee"ly connecte economy an its ee"2seate instinct to challenge $merica 7 globalisation 'hina an great2"ower 'hina vying &or a s"ot on the beach. 'elebrating their success in the 'hina market, the /yngenta em"loyees at the /heraton all wore %2shirts embla3one with the 8nglish2language slogan &or their event) 9/te" :" %ogether;. 1et right ne<t oor to their "arty was one o& the most striking symbols o& 'hina-s great2"ower ambitions. 4 eally situate &or quick access to the busy sea lanes o& the /outh 'hina /ea, the base in Hainan is one o& the "rinci"al "lat&orms &or an ol 2&ashione &orm o& "rojecting national "ower) a navy that can o"erate well beyon a country-s coastal waters. For the "ast cou"le o& eca es, such "ower "olitics seeme to have been ma e irrelevant by the &rictionless, &lat worl o& globalisation. 1along ,ay emonstrates a i&&erent reality. 4t is one o& the launch "a s &or what will be a central geo"olitical tussle o& the 21st century) the new era o& military com"etition in the Paci&ic .cean between 'hina an the :/. High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, o not cut ! "aste the article.
#$P %he historic meeting between 0ichar =i<on an *ao (e ong in 1>?2, which marke the resum"tion o& relations between the two "owers $sia-s seas have become the "rinci"al arteries o& the global economy yet two very i&&erent visions o& $sia-s &uture are now in "lay. /ince the e&eat o& @a"an in 1>45 7 an es"ecially since the en o& the col war 7 the :/ =avy has treate the Paci&ic almost as a "rivate lake. 4t has use that "ower to im"lement an international system in its own image, a rules2base or er o& &ree tra e, &ree om o& navigation an , when "ossible, emocratic government. %hat Pa< $mericana was cemente when the :/ an 'hina resume relations in 1>?2. %he &our eca es since 0ichar =i<on met *ao (e ong have been the most stable an "ros"erous in $sia-s mo ern history. :n er the agreement, the :/ en orse 'hina-s return to the &amily o& nations an 'hina im"licitly acce"te $merican military ominance in $sia. High quality global journalism requires investment. Please share this article with others using the link below, o not cut ! "aste the article. %his unwritten un erstan ing between ,eijing an +ashington on $merica-s role in $sia is crumbling. 'hina now wishes to recast the military an "olitical ynamic in the region to re&lect its own tra itional centrality. Areat "owers are riven by a mi<ture o& con&i ence an insecurity. 'hina wants a return to the lea ershi" "osition it has enjoye so o&ten in $sian history. 4t also &rets about the security o& its seaborne commerce, es"ecially in the area it calls the 9=ear /eas; 7 the coastal waters that inclu e the 1ellow, 8ast 'hina an /outh 'hina /eas. %he 1along ,ay naval base on Hainan is one "art o& the strategy that 'hina is starting to "ut in "lace to e<ert control over the =ear /eas, "ushing the :/ =avy ever &arther out into the western Paci&ic. 4n the "rocess, it is launching a "ro&oun challenge to the :/2le or er that has been the backbone o& the $sian economic miracle. For the "ast 20 years 'hina has been un ergoing a ra"i military buil 2u", an the navy has been given "ri e o& "lace. *ore im"ortant, 'hina has been investing in its navy in a very s"eci&ic way. $merican strategists sometimes talk about a 'hinese 9anti2navy; 7 a series o& warshi"s, silent submarines an "recision missiles, some base on lan , some at sea, which are s"eci&ically esigne to kee" an o""osing navy as &ar away as "ossible &rom the mainlan . %he im"lication o& the investment "lan is that 'hina is trying to "revent the :/ =avy &rom o"erating in large areas o& the
western Paci&ic. $ccor ing to Bennis ,lair, the &ormer Paci&ic comman er who was hea o& the :/ intelligence services early in the .bama a ministration) 9=inety "er cent o& their time is s"ent on thinking about new an interesting ways to sink our shi"s an shoot own our "lanes.; 'hina-s new navy is both an e<"ression o& "ower an a means to a i"lomatic en . ,y weakening the :/ naval "resence in the western Paci&ic, 'hina ho"es gra ually to un ermine $merica-s alliances with other $sian countries, notably /outh Corea, the Phili""ines an maybe even @a"an. 4& :/ in&luence eclines, 'hina woul be in a "osition to assume quietly a lea ershi" "osition in $sia, giving it much greater sway over the rules an "ractices in the global economy. %hrough its navy, 'hina ho"es to resha"e the balance o& "ower in $sia. %he naval com"etition in the western Paci&ic will set the tone &or a large "art o& global "olitics in the coming eca es.
#0euters @a"anese an 'hinese boats sail "ast one o& the is"ute /enkakuDBiaoyu islan s last year +hile these "ressures have built u" quietly over the "ast &ew years, they have burst into the o"en in recent months, es"ecially with the tense stan 2o&& between 'hina an @a"an over is"ute islan s in the 8ast 'hina /ea 7 which the @a"anese call the /enkaku an the 'hinese the Biaoyu. $lmost every ay, 'hinese aircra&t &ly near the islan s, "rom"ting a res"onse &rom @a"anese jets, while 'hinese vessels also "atrol near the islan s, which are a ministere by @a"an. %he worl -s secon an thir largest economies are "laying a game o& military chicken, with the worl -s largest economy, the :/, committe by treaty to e&en @a"an. 'hina-s ste""e 2u" claim over the islan s is one "art o& its "ush &or greater control o& the surroun ing seas but it is also a central "art o& the growing contest &or in&luence with the :/. 'hina-s turn to the seas is roote in history an geogra"hy in a manner that transcen s its current "olitical system. 4t was &rom the sea that 'hina was harasse uring its 9century o& humiliation; at the han s o& the west. 'hina was one o& the most "rominent victims o& 1>th2century gunboat i"lomacy, when ,ritain, France an other colonial "owers use their naval su"remacy to e<ercise control over /hanghai an a o3en other "orts aroun the country. %he instinct to control the surroun ing seas is "artly roote in the wi es"rea esire never to leave 'hina so vulnerable again. 94gnoring the oceans is a historical error we committe ,; says 1ang 1ong, a 'hinese
historian. 9$n now even in the &uture we will "ay a "rice &or this error.; %his besiegement looks even worse on a ma". 'hinese talk about the 9&irst islan chain;, a "erimeter that stretches along the western Paci&ic &rom @a"an in the northeast, through %aiwan, to the Phili""ines in the south 7 all allies or &rien s o& the :/. %his is both a geogra"hical barrier, in that it creates a series o& channels that a su"erior o""onent coul block in or er to bottle u" the 'hinese navy, an a "olitical barrier controlle by countries close to +ashington. 'hinese strategists talk about 9breaking through the thistles;) the evelo"ment o& a naval ca"ability that will allow it to o"erate outsi e the &irst islan chain.
#$FP %he :// Aeorge +ashington in Hong Cong +hen 'hina looks out to sea, it also quickly sees the :/. 4n the eca es when 'hina ha little more than a coastguar , it was largely unaware that the :/ =avy was "atrolling waters near its shores. ,ut now that its ca"abilities are more a vance , it witnesses on a aily basis that the $merican navy is su"erior an o"erating only a &ew miles &rom many o& 'hina-s major cities. 9For them, this is a major humiliation that they e<"erience every single ay,; says 'hu /hulong, an aca emic at %singhua :niversity in ,eijing who s"ent a number o& years in the 'hinese military. 94t is humiliating that another country can e<ercise so close to 'hina-s coasts, so close to the base in Hainan. %hat is the reason the navy wants to o something to challenge the :/.; $n<ieties about history an geogra"hy have meshe with broa er concerns about economic security. .ne o& the key turning "oints in 'hina-s "ush to the high seas took "lace when it starte to im"ort oil &or the &irst time, in 1>>E. ,y 2010, 'hina ha become the secon 2biggest consumer o& oil, hal& o& which is now im"orte . =ew great
"owers o&ten &ret that rivals coul amage their economy with a blocka e. For every 10 barrels o& oil that 'hina im"orts, more than eight travel by shi" through the /trait o& *alacca, the narrow sea channel between 4n onesia, *alaysia an /inga"ore, which is "atrolle by :/ shi"s. Fi&teenth2century Fenetians use to warn, 9+hoever is the Gor o& *alacca has his han on the throat o& Fenice.; Hu @intao echoe these sentiments when he warne in a 200E s"eech that 9certain major "owers; are bent on controlling this crucial sea lane. :ntil now, 'hina-s maritime security has been guarantee largely by the :/ =avy. ,ut, like as"iring great "owers be&ore it, 'hina has been &orce to con&ront a central geo"olitical ilemma) can it rely on a rival to "rotect the country-s economic li&elineH ... 4n 2005, the $merican writer 0obert Ca"lan wrote a cover story &or %he $tlantic entitle 9How +e +oul Fight 'hina;. 4 can remember receiving a co"y in my o&&ice in /hanghai an tossing it angrily on to a "ile o& "a"ers, the "lastic wra""er still on the maga3ine. %his was the high "oint o& the ebacle in 4raq an the i ea o& talking u" a war with 'hina at that moment seeme the height o& neoconservative conceit. ,ut when 4 i eventually rea Ca"lan-s article, 4 began to realise that the question he raise was a crucial one. 'hina oes not have a gran im"erial "lan to inva e its neighbours, in the way the /oviets i . ,ut in any country with a ra"i ly growing military 7 one that is &le<ing its muscles an is involve in a score o& unresolve territorial is"utes 7 there is always the risk that its lea ers might be tem"te by some sort o& military solution, the lure o& a quick win that woul reor er the regional balance. 4& 'hina an its neighbours all believe that the :/ has a cre ible "lan &or a con&lict, this both eters any eventual 'hinese a venturism an re uces the risk that an<ious $sians will start their own arms races with ,eijing. .r, as %I Hammes, the $merican military historian, "uts it) 9+e nee to make sure no one in the 'hinese military is 2 whis"ering in their lea ers- ears) J4& you listen to me, we can be in Paris in just two weeks.-;
#8 @onesD$FPDAetty 4mages :/ aircra&t carrier 'arl Finson in Hong Cong in 2011 %he :/ has not lost an aircra&t carrier since the @a"anese sank the Hornet in 1>42. ,oth "ractically an symbolically, the aircra&t carrier has been central to $merican "ower "rojection over the si< eca es uring which it has ominate the Paci&ic. ,ut it is those same vessels that are now "otentially un er threat &rom 'hina-s vast new array o& missiles. %he loss o& a carrier woul be a massive "sychological blow to
$merican "restige an cre ibility, a naval >D11. %he mere "ros"ect that carriers might be vulnerable coul be enough to restrict their use. 8ven i& the :/ =avy comman ers thought their carriers woul "robably survive in a con&lict, they might be reluctant to take the risk. $s a result, the :/ nee s a Plan ,. 4n the bowels o& the Pentagon, that new "lan has been taking sha"e. 4t is not actually escribe as a "lan 7 instea , Pentagon o&&icials call it a new 9conce"t; &or &ighting wars. ,ut it oes have a name, $ir/ea ,attle, which echoes the military octrine &rom the later stages o& the col war calle $irGan ,attle, when the massive buil 2u" in /oviet troo"s a""eare to give the ://0 the ca"acity to over2run western 8uro"e. *any o& the etails about $ir/ea ,attle remain vague. ,ut the &ew in ications that have been ma e "ublic suggest an a""roach that, i& "ushe too &ar, coul be a mani&esto &or a new col war. .ne senior Pentagon o&&icial insiste to me, 9%his is not an anti2'hina battle "lan.; ,ut when the Pentagon starts to escribe the threats it is &acing 7 long2range, "recision2 strike missiles that can restrict the movements o& its shi"s, a vance submarines an e<"ertise in cyberwar 7 it becomes clear that $ir/ea ,attle is "rimarily about 'hina. %he hy"othetical threat that the Pentagon "lanners outline escribes accurately the "recise strategy that 'hina has been evelo"ing to restrict :/ access to the western Paci&ic. =o won er :/ military o&&icers sometimes re&er to 'hina as 9Fol emort; 7 in the Pentagon-s new battle "lan, 'hina is the enemy whose name they are not s"eak. $mi the military jargon there lies an i ea that 7 i& taken to its logical conclusion 7 is &raught with "eril. 4n early 2012, the Pentagon release a ocument calle 9@oint ."erational $ccess 'once"t; Kknown in the buil ing as @oacL. 4n the event o& a con&lict, the "a"er says, the :/ shoul 9attack the enemy-s cyber an s"ace; ca"abilities. $t the same time, it shoul attack the enemy-s anti2access &orces 9in e"th;. %he clear im"lication o& this a vice is that, i& war ever were to 2 Bennis ,lair, &ormer :/ Paci&ic comman er break out, the :/ shoul "lan to launch e<tensive bombing rai s across mainlan 'hina. 'hina-s 9anti2navy; o& missile bases an surveillance equi"ment is base at &acilities s"rea across the country, inclu ing in many built2u" areas. %he basic i ea behin $ir/ea ,attle lea s to a &airly uncom"romising conclusion that, in the early stages o& a con&lict with ,eijing, the :/ shoul estroy o3ens o& military sites. 4t is the navy-s version o& 9shock an awe; &or 21st2century $sia.
=inety "er cent o& 'hina-s time is s"ent on thinking about new an interesting ways to sink our shi"s an shoot own our "lanes
%here are several reasons why this woul be a angerous way to think about a con&lict with 'hina. For a start, it is a reci"e &or ra"i escalation. Aiven that two nuclear "owers are involve , there shoul be big incentives to leave room &or i"lomats to try an &in a way to resolve the situation. 1et, in calling &or :/ &orces to take out 'hina-s missile batteries at an early stage, the Pentagon-s i eas coul intensi&y any con&lict quickly. %he 'hinese might well conclu e that the :/ was also targeting its nuclear
wea"ons. :sing $ir/ea ,attle-s i eas against 'hina is an all2or2nothing battle "lan. 4& comman ers quickly or er bombing rai s across 'hina, there is little sco"e to create s"ace &or i"lomacy. /hort o& com"lete 'hinese ca"itulation, it is i&&icult to see how such a war woul en . $ir/ea ,attle woul be e<"ensive, too. 4t woul require the Pentagon to &ast2track a lot o& wea"ons "rojects, such as a new generation o& stealth bomber, at a time when bu gets are un er "ressure. 4t is not only the usual critics o& the military2in ustrial com"le< who &ear this is "art o& the hi en agen a o& $ir/ea ,attle. %owar s the en o& the col war, the arms race ultimately bankru"te the /oviet :nion be&ore the "ressures o& e&ence s"en ing began seriously to un ermine the :/. ,ut i& a ee"er arms race were to evelo" between 'hina an the :/, it is not at all clear that +ashington woul be starting &rom a stronger &inancial &ooting. %hen there are the allies. $sian governments are keen on a :/ military that can "ush back against 'hinese aggression an are eager to enlist :/ hel" in this regar . ,ut some allies might balk at the "ros"ect o& a "lan to attack ee" into mainlan 'hina, es"ecially i& it involve launching bombing rai s &rom their territory. ,en /chreer, an $ustralian military strategist, says $ir/ea ,attle is suite to 9a &uture $sian col war scenario;. 0ather than "rovi ing assurance, +ashington-s new battle "lan coul easily rattle some o& its &rien s an allies. ... $ll these objections create one &inal "roblem with $ir/ea ,attle) is such an a""roach "olitically viableH Aiven the risks, es"ecially the chance o& nuclear escalation, it is not at all clear that a :/ "resi ent woul en orse a war "lan that involve such a rolling bombing cam"aign. /uccess&ul eterrence relies on being able to emonstrate a military threat that is cre ible an realistic. Pentagon "lanners ho"e the 'hinese military will be cowe by the mere thought o& an $merican military strategy base on $ir/ea ,attle. ,ut, equally, the 'hinese might come to see it as a one great big blu&&. $t the very least, $ir/ea ,attle concentrates the min . 4t is "rom"ting a much broa er ebate in the :/ about how to res"on to the 'hinese challenge. +ith its su"eriority now un er threat, +ashington &aces a choice) it can try to retain its "rimacy at all costs or it can shi&t to a more e&ensive a""roach that is geare towar s "reventing another "ower &rom ever controlling the region. Beterrence is not always the same as ominance. %he :/ can use some o& 'hina-s own logic against it. %ogether with its allies, it can evelo" e&ensive arrangements that take a vantage o& the region-s geogra"hy an which woul make it almost im"ossible &or 'hina to sei3e conteste areas 7 an to hol on to those islan s i& it were to try. ,y making clear the high "enalties that woul be involve in any attem"t to snatch is"ute islan s, it can ensure that 'hina cannot
change the region-s status quo. /uch a goal woul be both much chea"er to achieve an much less con&rontational than "lanning &or mainlan air strikes. %he $merican naval historians %oshi 1oshihara an @ames Holmes suggest that the :/ "artly &ocuses on what they call 9war limite by contingent; 7 smaller2scale o"erations which "revent ramatic escalation but make li&e i&&icult &or the 'hinese navy. %hey raw the analogy o& +ellington-s cam"aign in /"ain an Portugal in 1M0?2 14, which in military terms was a si eshow to the broa er con&lict with France but which =a"oleon com"laine gave him 9an ulcer;. %he geogra"hy along the &irst islan chain "rovi es many strategic locations which can be use to construct small2scale &acilities with missile batteries that coul create havoc &or a rival navy. /ubmarines an mines woul a to the eterrent e&&ect against any lan 2grabs. 9%he i eas that 'hina is "ursuing about enying access can work both ways,; Holmes tol me. 9%here are many ways to give 'hina an ulcer, which coul be one o& the best ways o& eterring aggression be&ore it ever ha""ens.; For the more "essimistic observers, the :/ an 'hina are oome to re"eat the intense security com"etition o& the col war. @ohn *earsheimer, the :niversity o& 'hicago scholar, argues that the rivalry coul be even more volatile than with the /oviet :nion because there are more "otential is"utes. He also says he woul not be sur"rise i& 'hina an @a"an 9start shooting at each other; at some stage over the ne<t &ive years. /uch bleak outcomes are not inevitable, o& course 7 "ower&ul economic connections narrow the s"ace &or reckless behaviour. 1et a "revious era o& globalisation &aile to "revent the :C an Aermany &rom going to war. /hin3o $be, the @a"anese "rime minister, is not alone in com"aring the current situation in $sia to 8uro"e in 1>14. $sian militaries lack the meticulous war "lans that hel"e "ush 8uro"e into con&lict then but the region o&&ere a &amiliar mi<ture o& nationalism an the "otential &or miscalculations that can s"in out o& control. %he western Paci&ic may now be the cock"it o& the worl economy but it is also turning into one o& its most angerous &lash"oints.
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