Monday, 17 January 2011

Great Britain, the United States of America and the People's Republic of China: A highlight of past, present and maybe future Empire

Once upon a time there was this huge great British Empire, it was said that the Empire was so big that the sun never sets on it. Alas, after World War 2 this great empire began to crumble with the independence of its crown jewel, India in 1947. Between 1945 and 1965, the number of people under British rule outside Great Britain itself fell from 700 million to five million, three million of whom were in Hong Kong which were handed back to the People's Republic of China in 1997; The end of the Empire. Britain still retains sovereignty over 14 territories outside the British isles (refer here):

File:Location of the BOTs.svg

The crumbling Great British Empire was swiftly replaced by the United States of America which in the words of the Monthly Review:
 "took Britain’s place as the hegemonic power of the capitalist world economy. The United States emerged from the Second World War with the most extensive system of military bases that the world had ever seen. According to James Blaker, former Senior Advisor to the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, this overseas basing system at the end of the Second World War consisted of over thirty thousand installations located at two thousand base sites residing in around one hundred countries and areas, and stretching from the Arctic Circle to Antarctica. U.S. military bases were spread over all the continents and the islands in between. “Next to the U.S. nuclear monopoly,” Blaker writes, “there was no more universally recognized symbol of the nation’s superpower status than its overseas basing system" excerpts of a report from the Monthly Review, read more here: U.S. Military Bases and Empire.

How long the American Empire will last will be a subject of much debate, but for sure the American continues to hold their fort and influence all over the world with its Economic, Financial and its Military might which is the most formidable and sophisticated the civilized world has ever known. With that I think American influence will still be very strong, way into the next century. 

However, with the People's Republic of China economy steadily growing and predicted to be the biggest economy in the world in the not so distant future, America's numero uno position is under threat at least in the far East. So says "america national security forum":


The primary perspective reflected in these publications focuses on the PRC “beginning to throw its weight around Asia” as it becomes a global economic force and, with developing power projection capabilities, at least a more dominant regional player. The growth of Chinese military capability now “appears designed to threaten our freedom of action in the region”, CINCPAC Commander Admiral Robert Willard observed. Others have noted that with the United States bogged down in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, now is a propitious time for China to challenge America’s regional “hegemony”.

Chinese Military Power: New Weapons Systems Cause Concern
1.    China is developing significant new capabilities to project power, prevent America from exercising freedom of the seas, protect the homeland from air/missile attack, and to maintain command and control (C3) in a wartime situation. China is building an “asymmetric warfare” capability; that is, it does not choose to contest us with equivalent systems to where our strength lies, but to offset and reduce the effectiveness of our most important weapon systems (especially carriers).

2.   The most impressive advances have occurred with respect to very accurate “anti-ship” missiles, with a range and accuracy that effectively prevents our naval carriers from entering waters anywhere near the China coasts. The newest “anti-ship” ballistic missile has a range in excess of 1,000 miles! China now has 66 submarines, almost as many as the U.S. possesses (not of the same quality—yet).

3.   According to the Pentagon’s recently issued “Chinese Military Power”, China is also developing advanced defensive missiles (SAMs), new surface to surface missiles (SSMs), fighter bombers with cruise missiles, and an advanced C3 system which we understand poorly. It is now the world’s 2nd biggest naval power, far behind the U.S. and certainly not capable of global power projection, but enough to challenge our freedom of action on the high seas. The focus, the Pentagon report says, has been on “anti-access” and “area-denial” weapons. Concern has also been expressed over “joint Chinese military-civilian cyber warfare” units armed with computer viruses to attack foreign cyber networks.

The PRC is flexing its muscle to assert greater influence in Asia
1.   The U.S. and other regional powers consider the East and South China Seas as international waterways; China is claiming these waters to be its “core national interest”.

2.   China strongly objected to planned U.S. and South Korea naval maneuvers in the East China Sea. As a result, the US and Korea “postponed” the exercises.

3.    China and Japan have clashed over sovereignty over the uninhabited, Japanese-held Senkaku Islands and over naval maneuvers in the nearby Straits. Japan also seized a Chinese fishing vessel which it claimed “rammed” two of its naval ships.

4.    China and its neighbors disagree as to who owns hundreds of islands in the East Asia seas, and more importantly, who has control over what might be vast oil and gas riches surrounding the islands. China is building a huge naval base on Hainan Island to provide forward basing.

5.    Viet-Nam is increasingly at odds with the PRC, specifically over growing Chinese claims to control over the South China Seas. The Chinese Navy seized Vietnamese fishing boats in the area for “encroaching on Chinese territory”.

6.    Robert Kaplan notes that with its growing missile arsenal, increased commerce between them, and fledging “blue water navy”, “China is quietly incorporating Taiwan into its dominion”.

7.   Further away, China is building or assisting in the construction of naval facilities in Burma, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan, to be sure more commercially oriented and not true naval bases—for now.

8.    China cut off military to military talks with the U.S. earlier this year, in protest against the proposed $6 billion arms sale to Taiwan.

9.    Beyond Asia, China continues to develop close ties with Sudan, Brazil, and South Africa, primarily in the hunt for new energy and mineral resources.

10.  The Asian regional powers are reacting to what is seen as China’s diplomatic initiatives as becoming more arrogant. As the PRC’s military power becomes more evident and as the country emerges stronger than ever from the global economic crisis, such arrogance and aggressiveness will escalate.

What is driving the increased Chinese aggressiveness?
1.    No doubt that much of the new Chinese assertiveness is driven by its increasing economic strengthChina recently passed Japan as the world’s #2 economic giant, and could surpass the U.S. by 2030! The PRC economy is growing at an impressive 9% annual rate, despite the global recession. China’s huge accumulation of foreign currencies, American debt, and growing dominance of trade, give it the psychological as well as tangible confidence to assert its power. As Ken Miller observes, “Never before has China had this much financial might, and it is now experimenting with how best to use it in its relations with other states” (“Coping with China’s Financial Power”. Foreign Affairs, July-Aug, 2010)

2.    China is a growing economic power, but one with an increasing need for energy and mineral resources. In 1995 the PRC was self-sufficient in handling its oil requirements; today it is 50% dependent on imports and that need will grow substantially.

3.   There is a perception in Beijing that “imperialists” and other entities had taken advantage of China when it was “weak”, and these wrongs need to be redressed. Plus, there is a growing sense of nationalism—not yet xenophobic, but close to it.

4.   The PRC is testing its neighbors at a time when the U.S., the traditional dominant power in the region, is beset with economic problems, is more and more dependent on China to purchase its debt, and is preoccupied with fighting wars in SW Asia.

The Backlash: Suddenly all of East and SE Asia Loves the U.S.
1.   President Obama recently met with ten very worried ASEAN member nations. Rising frictions between China and all of its neighbors over security issues have handed the U.S. an opportunity to reassert itself. Japan, which had been increasingly at odds with America and prepared to junk the postwar alliance, now sees the U.S. as a vital partner in “balancing” growing Chinese assertiveness. The new Japanese PM Kan has repudiated previous harsh attacks on American military presence and now calls the alliance the “cornerstone” of Japanese foreign policy.

2.   Viet-Nam welcomed a visit last year of a U.S. naval vessel (ironically commanded by a Vietnamese refugee!), invited an American carrier to “park outside” its coast, and began first ever bilateral defense talks this year—15 years after “normalization” (Isn’t there a certain irony in this developing U.S.-Viet Nam “anti-China” alliance?

In the near term, friction with China will continue to grow, not only between the U.S. and the PRC, but between China and virtually all of its neighbors. Buoyed by its economic prowess and developing power projection capabilities, Beijing is likely to be not only a regional power, but increasingly one with global influence. The United States can benefit from this challenge by developing stronger relationships with China’s neighbors, but with the ongoing wars, a devastating recession and a political stalemate at home, our ability to deal with the challenge represented by a resurgent China.
Read the full article by Tyrus W Cobb here. Very interesting article on the fears and benefits of an emerging Empire in the making, the People's Republic of China, PRC for short.
My fear is that the PRC could in their national interest forcefully occupy the Spratly Islands without going thru the World Court Tribunal. Malaysia has claimed part ownership of the Spratly Islands centred on Pulau Layang Layang

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