Thursday, August 10, 2006

[far-east] china sits back and stirs the pot

Chinese writing often describes the future in terms of the Warring States era in Chinese history; the age in which the classics of Chinese statecraft were produced. According to interviews with the current Chinese military, these stories are embedded in Chinese culture, just as the West has its own history and its own literature. The military calls the future multipolar world "amazingly similar" to the Warring States era and declares that China's future security environment resembles the era in several ways.

Colonel Liu Chungzi of the National Defense University Strategy Department states that "in the 1990s, the world entered a multipolar era very similar to the time of Sun Zi." General Gao Rui, former Vice President of the Academy of Military Science (AMS), writes that the era is "extremely distant from modern times, but still shines with the glory of truth" and "the splendid military legacy created through the bloody struggles of our ancient ancestors and today has a radiance even more resplendent."

The director of research at the General Staff Department of the People's Liberation Army published six volumes of studies on ancient statecraft in 1996 that contained specific advice on how to comprehend the current and future security environment. An essential aspect in assessment is to determine the rank order of the power held by the various warring states. Although today's Chinese concept of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) was invented in the early 1980s, it originally stemmed from traditional military philosophy.

According to ancient strategists such as Wu Chunqiu, calculating CNP can aid a nation not just for war but also to "coordinate a political and diplomatic offensive, to psychologically disintegrate enemy forces and subdue them." Assessing one's own CNP can also aid a country by promoting development and growth. Sun Zi warned that victory depended on calculations and estimates of enemy strength and weaknesses made in advance. Two of ancient China's greatest advisers on statecraft, Lord Shang and Li Si, also warned of the need for calculating the future.

States which rise too fast suffer attack, dismemberment, and even complete extinction. As every literate Chinese knows, a brilliant strategist always forms a coalition that stands for several decades against the predatory hegemon of the time. The solution, therefore, is in alliances. According to Deng Xiaoping, China must "hide brightness and nourish obscurity," or as Beijing translates it, "to bide our time and build up our capabilities" and to "yield on small issues with the long term in mind."

China, at present, must avoid being dragged into local conflicts about spheres of influence, or struggles over natural resources. Dr. Yan Xuetong, Director of the Centre for Foreign Policy at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR), China's largest international research institute, warned in an article in 1997 that the probability of China's avoiding war for at least 10 more years will increase the more it also avoids any confrontation with at least two of the other major powers and as long as certain policy goals are maximized:

· annually increasing exports up to 9 %
· avoiding simultaneous confrontation.

When the U.S. leadership finally realizes that China's power is about to surpass hers, it will form a coalition to strangle to death the rising power. President Jiang Zemin has advocated that China's military programs be focused on the potential Revolution in Military Affairs which will not "mature" until at least 2030, rather than improving current weapons; by which time China, or possibly Japan, will score highest in the world on CNP and be well positioned, as General Mi Zhenyu has written, to "get ahead of all the others."

China's well-connected ultranationalist author, He Xin, advocates on the other hand, that China should align with every currently anti-American nation in the world. He Xin's critics, however, project a sharp decline in the global role of the US, asserting that in two decades or less:

· The US will inevitably decline to one of five powers - Japan, the European Union, Russia, and China will each equal the United States.
· The United States, Russia, and China will have nuclear equivalence.
· Within two or three decades, the problem will solve itself. Patience and caution are wiser than aggressive coalition building.

Zhang Wenmu, of the CICIR, says that because of America's desperate need for new oil and gas resources, especially in Central Asia, it has begun to interfere in the Tibet issue, as part of a larger scheme involving the enlargement of NATO and the redefinition of the US-Japan Defence Guidelines.

According to Zhang, US strategy was always to "follow the oil".

In World War II, it did not intervene until Japan moved toward oil. Similarly, before the Gulf War, the United States ignored Iraqi expansion towards the North and West but when Saudi and Kuwait oil was threatened, the US went to war. Zhang writes that, in 1998, the United States had a "two arms" strategy to contain both Russia (with NATO enlargement) and China (with the new Japan Defense Guidelines and promoting the China Threat Theory).

In addition, Zhang predicts that the United States wants to screen off both Chinese and Russian access to Central Asian oil and gas. If there is internal turmoil in Tibet or further north in Muslim Xinjiang, Zhang predicts that the United States will try to set up an international no-fly zone, as it did after the Gulf War, thus "dismembering" Tibet and Xinjiang, the hub of China's geopolitical position and causing the loss of the high plateau, which provides natural protection to the west.

Zhang recommends that China must get the Central Asia oil market oriented to itself. Better to place high priority on land transport of oil and gas, which its superiority in ground forces can protect, rather than depend on sea lanes for oil supplies. Liu Jinghua, of CASS, warns that by 2020, the policy of "concealing abilities and biding time" will not be sufficient and "once the flood begins, we must have a Great Wall which cannot collapse."

One part of this Great Wall must be a partnership with Russia, to defeat Western containment, attempted by restricting access to capital markets and technology, promoting Western values and using military power " as the core" against China. China just needs not to provoke the hegemon until the Great Wall can be ready. According to General Li Jijun, one of China's most distinguished military authors and former Vice President of AMS, the greater danger to a nation's survival is not warfare but "strategic misdirection".

The United States brought about the collapse of the Soviet Union with strategic misdirection. Through various means, such as the Strategic Defense Initiative, which the US had no intention of deploying, the Soviets greatly increased their defense budget. The US also supported opposition in Poland and Afghanistan, drove down the price of oil to cut off the main source of Soviet foreign exchange, and exacerbated the domestic Soviet political crisis. The collapse of the Soviet Union, following secessionist moves in the Baltic States, was a lesson China noted.

In 1990, Washington made deliberately deceptive comments to Saddam Hussein through the U.S. Ambassador in Baghdad, to the effect that the United States did not care if he invaded Kuwait. Citing the lessons of history, General Li warns that "unconsciously accepting an opponent's strategic misdirection causes a nation to be defeated or collapse, and not know why."An article in the June issue of Zhongguo Pinglun concludes:

"The Western forces are attempting to drag China into the mire in the arms race. The United States is planning to pursue a theatre missile defense system, so that the Chinese will step into the shoes of the former Soviet Union. In an arms race with the United States, China will consume its national power and collapse without a battle."Abridgement of the original article by Michael Pillsbury National Defense University Press

posted by james higham at Tuesday, August 08, 2006

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