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The Skirmish in the Spratlys: Beating Uncle Sam at His Own Game

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Reprinted from Smirking Chimp

From youtube.com/watch?v=jmspARdNGh4: US versus China
US versus China
(Image by YouTube)
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"Washington is not looking for peace or war. They're looking for domination. If they can achieve domination peacefully -- that's fine. If they can't, they'll use war. It's that simple."
-- William Blum, Interview with Russia Today

"The U.S. is frantically surrounding China with military weapons, advanced aircraft, naval fleets and a multitude of military bases from Japan, South Korea and the Philippines through several nearby smaller Pacific islands to its new and enlarged base in Australia". The U.S. naval fleet, aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines patrol China's nearby waters. Warplanes, surveillance planes, drones and spying satellites cover the skies, creating a symbolic darkness at noon."
-- Jack A. Smith, Hegemony Games: USA vs. PRC, CounterPunch

The vast build-up of military assets in the Asia-Pacific signals a fundamental change in U.S. policy towards China. Washington no longer believes that China can be integrated into the existing US-led system. Recent actions taken by China -- particularly the announcement that it planned to launch an Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) that would compete head-to-head with the World Bank and IMF -- have set off alarms in the Capital where behind-the-scenes power brokers and think tank pundits agree that a more "robust" policy is needed to slow China's ascendency. The current confrontation in the South China Sea -- where the US has demanded that China immediately cease all land reclamation activities -- indicates that the new policy has already been activated, increasing the prospects of a conflagration between the two nuclear-armed adversaries.

There's no need to go over the details of China's land reclamation activities in the Spratly Islands since reasonable people can agree that Washington has no real interest in a few piles of sand heaped up on reefs 10,000 miles from the United States. The man-made islands pose no threat to US national security or to freedom of navigation. The Obama administration is merely using the Spratlys as a pretext to provoke, intimidate and harass Beijing. The Spratly's provide a justification for escalation, for building an anti-China coalition among US allies in the region, for demonizing China in the media, for taking steps to disrupt China's ambitious Silk Roads economic strategy, and for encircling China to the West with US warships that threaten China's access to critical shipping lanes and vital energy supplies. This is the ultimate objective; to bring China to its knees and to force it to comply with Washington's diktats. This is what Washington really wants.

In a recent speech at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore, US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said that "there is no military solution to the South China Sea disputes." Just moments later, and without a trace of irony, Carter rattled off a long list of military assets the Pentagon plans to deploy to the Asia-Pacific to shore up US offensive capability. The list includes "the latest Virginia-class [nuclear] submarines, the Navy's P-8 Poseidon surveillance aircraft, the newest stealth destroyer, the Zumwalt, and brand-new carrier-based E-2D Hawkeye early-warning-and-control aircraft." The Pentagon is also going to add "new unmanned systems for the air and sea, a new long-range bomber, (an) electromagnetic railgun, lasers, and new systems for space and cyberspace, including a few surprising ones."

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For someone who doesn't believe in a military solution, Carter is certainly adding a lot of lethal hardware to his arsenal. The question is: Why? Is Washington preparing for war?

Probably not. The United States does not want a war with China. What Washington wants is to be the dominant player in this century's most promising and prosperous market, Asia. But China's meteoric growth has put Washington's plan at risk, which is why Obama is wheeling out the heavy artillery. The anti-China coalition, the China-excluding trade agreements (TPP) and the unprecedented military build up are all aimed at preserving Washington's dominant role without actually starting a war. The administration thinks that the show of force alone will precipitate a change in behavior. They think China will back down rather than face the awesome military power of the American empire. But will it? Here's another clip from Carter's speech at Shangri La:

"The United States will continue to protect freedom of navigation and overflight -- principles that have ensured security and prosperity in this region for decades. There should be no mistake: the United States will fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as U.S. forces do all around the world.

"America, alongside its allies and partners in the regional architecture, will not be deterred from exercising these rights -- the rights of all nations. After all, turning an underwater rock into an airfield simply does not afford the rights of sovereignty or permit restrictions on international air or maritime transit."

Who is Carter kidding? China poses no threat to freedom of navigation or overflight. The real threat is China's participation in the $100 billion BRICS Development Bank which is set to finance some of the "largest projects of the modern history (including) the construction of new Eurasian infrastructure from Moscow to Vladivostok, in South China and India." The so called BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) "represent 56% of world economic output, and account for 85% of world population. They control about 70% of the world's foreign exchange reserves. They grow annually by an average of 4% - 5%." (Sputnik News) In other words, US-backed institutions are going to lose their exalted role as "underwriter for the global economy" because the world's biggest infrastructure projects are going to be funded by China and its allies. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Washington where policy bigwigs are worried that US influence will gradually erode as global power inevitably shifts eastward.

US hegemony is also threatened by China's Sino-centric economic policy which author Robert Berke sums up in an article on Oil Price.com titled "New Silk Road Could Change Global Economics Forever." Here's an excerpt from the article:

"China is building the world's greatest economic development and construction project ever undertaken: The New Silk Road. The project aims at no less than a revolutionary change in the economic map of the world...The ambitious vision is to resurrect the ancient Silk Road as a modern transit, trade, and economic corridor that runs from Shanghai to Berlin. The 'Road' will traverse China, Mongolia, Russia, Belarus, Poland, and Germany, extending more than 8,000 miles, creating an economic zone that extends over one third the circumference of the earth.

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"The plan envisions building high-speed railroads, roads and highways, energy transmission and distributions networks, and fiber optic networks. Cities and ports along the route will be targeted for economic development.

"An equally essential part of the plan is a sea-based "Maritime Silk Road" (MSR) component, as ambitious as its land-based project, linking China with the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea through Central Asia and the Indian Ocean. When completed, like the ancient Silk Road, it will connect three continents: Asia, Europe, and Africa. The chain of infrastructure projects will create the world's largest economic corridor, covering a population of 4.4 billion and an economic output of $21 trillion...

"For the world at large, its decisions about the Road are nothing less than momentous. The massive project holds the potential for a new renaissance in commerce, industry, discovery, thought, invention, and culture that could well rival the original Silk Road. It is also becoming clearer by the day that geopolitical conflicts over the project could lead to a new cold war between East and West for dominance in Eurasia. The outcome is far from certain." ("New Silk Road Could Change Global Economics Forever," Robert Berke, Oil Price)

China is perfectly situated to take advantage of Asia's explosive growth. They've paid their dues, built up their infrastructure and industrial capability, and now they're in the catbird seat fully prepared to benefit from the fact that "Half of humanity will live in Asia by 2050" and that "more than half of the global middle class and its accompanying consumption will come from that region." US corporations will be welcome to compete in these new markets, but they won't do nearly as well as businesses located in China. (This is why the Pentagon has been asked to intervene by powerful members of the corporate establishment.)

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Mike is a freelance writer living in Washington state.


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