US President George W. Bush's recent visit to Asia made little news -- by design. But that's because Bush didn't begin to address the issue that is looming ever larger in the region: the changing face of security in Asia in view of China's growing economic and military might.
This summer, for example, China and Russia conducted their first ever grand-scale joint military exercise. This was followed by Russian news reports that China, Russia and India would conduct trilateral military exercises, named "Indira 2005," on the same scale before the end of this year.
In the past, such a combination of countries was almost unthinkable, and these exercises cannot be explained away as simple "one-off" affairs with little resonance. Instead, they reflect China's long-term strategic goal of establishing hegemony across Asia.
One tool of this ambition is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), under which the Sino-Russian exercises took place. Established in June 2001, the SCO includes China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The SCO's original purpose was to mitigate tensions on the borders of China and the Central Asian countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the arrival of US military forces with the war in Afghanistan.
China regards the SCO as a stage for broadening its influence over a vast region, ranging from the Asia-Pacific to Southwest Asia, the Middle East, East Africa and the Indian Ocean. Indeed, its members include about 45 percent of the world's population, and 28 percent of the landmass ranging across the Eurasian continent.
China's active leadership of the SCO has resulted in policies that it favors. Gradually, the SCO shifted its focus to fighting Islamic radicals. Nowadays, however, the SCO is often used as a forum to campaign against supposed US unilateralism and to provide a united front -- especially between China and Russia -- against the US with respect to security and arms-reduction issues in the region. This includes joint anti-terror training and demands to reduce US forces in the region, particularly from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The SCO provides China not only with a platform to confront the existing US-led alliance in the Asia-Pacific region, but is increasingly being used to prevent the formation of a US-led network to restrain China's advance. Ultimately, it is feared that the SCO could develop into a military alliance similar to the Warsaw Pact of the Cold War era, with an embryonic "Great China Union" at its core.
But China's regional diplomacy goes far beyond the SCO. It seizes every opportunity that comes its way, including the six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions, to emphasize its centrality to the settlement of any and all Asian issues. Moreover, it continues to build its "string of pearls" of military bases at every key point on maritime transportation routes along the "arc of instability" from the Middle East to China's coast.
No one seems to know how to respond to China's diplomatic and military muscle flexing in Asia, as the extent of China's ambitions remains utterly unclear. But, while everyone else ponders China's motives, its government is acting. Indeed, the UK's premier security think tank, the Institute for International Strategic Studies, recently warned that, while the world focuses on the fight against international terrorism and the unfolding events in the Middle East, China is rapidly expanding its influence from Asia to Africa.
The "pearls" in Africa include Sudan, Angola, Algeria, Gabon, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Djibouti, Mali, Central Africa, Liberia, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In each country, China is nurturing special military and commercial relations intended to promote loyalty to Chinese interests.
As in Asia, there is a pattern at work: Growing Chinese influence begets increased support for Chinese policies. Of course, it's a two-way street. Whenever complaints come up in the UN Human Rights Committee, China can count on the support of many African countries that have their own human rights problems. Even the selection of Beijing as the site of the 2008 Olympics benefited from "African votes." And China has publicly stated that it will back African nations in potential disputes at the WTO and other international organizations.
Similarly, many African states now seem to be leaning heavily toward China in its dispute with Taiwan. When Japan's government tried to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, few African countries backed its bid, despite having received economic aid for decades.
China likes to boast of its "peaceful rise." But the rise of Bismarck's Germany at the end of the 19th century was also peaceful -- for a while. The question is not whether China rises to great-power status peacefully, but whether it intends to remain peaceful when it gets there. Just as the world confronted the "German Question" 125 years ago, it is now confronting the "China Question." We need a better answer this time.
Hideaki Kaneda, a retired vice-admiral of Japan's Self-Defense Force, is currently director of the Okazaki Institute.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
An old Latin adage reads: Si vis pacem, para bellum. Translated it means: “If you wish peace, then prepare for war.” This adage has many variants and claims to authorship, but what is most important is its message for a peaceful Taiwan. Why should Taiwan prepare for war? The reasons are many and obvious. Certainly, such preparation is not because Taiwan wants war or is a warlike nation. Instead, the answer is found in its neighbor, China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a one-party state, is ambitious and troubled — and that combination makes war a viable option,
As a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, I frequently get asked how quickly the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might overrun Taiwan if it invaded before 2040. My answer is that the PLA will not be able to take over Taiwan within that time frame, because the more eager the PLA is to complete the task in a short period, the more likely it would fail — and fail big. Having a slim chance of winning is what keeps the PLA from taking action. From time to time, some PLA leaders or keyboard fighters make threats — one of the
Hypersonic weapons are defined as armaments capable of traveling at speeds faster than Mach 5 and can be broadly classified into two types: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles. The former are launched into the upper atmosphere by ballistic missiles. The vehicle is then separated from the booster to maneuver, or glide, toward its target. The latter can be launched from a jet plane or rocket to reach supersonic speed before igniting a scramjet engine to achieve hypersonic speeds. As the US engages in a great-power competition with China and Russia, all three countries are racing to field hypersonic
With the World Bank and the IMF yesterday starting their annual meetings, all eyes are on Evergrande, China’s second-largest property developer, which apparently cannot repay about US$300 billion it owes to banks, bondholders, employees and suppliers. With the property giant teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the world is being forced to contemplate a scenario it had never seriously considered — a made-in-China financial crisis. Observers have been quick to draw parallels between the Evergrande debacle and past crises. Some compare it to the 2008 crash of the US investment bank Lehman Brothers, which triggered a massive banking and financial crisis.