[A-List] China's Distant Threat to US Dominance in Asia
shimogamo at attglobal.net
Sat Mar 6 17:37:02 MST 2004
by Erich Marquardt
Power and Interest News Report (September 08 2003)
[I think that this essay on US interests and strategy in Asia suggests the strategy Japan and other
Asian nations should take to protect their own interests. I've inserted my own comments in brackets throughout the article. Bill Totten, February 26 2004]
A country that borders thirteen others with a population of 1.3 billion people, China stands to be a major power force in Asia. Though currently a relatively weak country, China is on a fast track toward economic modernization as its economy continues to rapidly grow. If China is able to continue its economic modernization program without any major obstructions, it will become the richest and most powerful state in the world - at least from a statistical point of view - surpassing even the projected economic and military power of the United States. While exciting for Chinese leaders and the Chinese population, this destiny has resulted in the opposite effect for American policymakers and the American population, who are very wary of this emerging great power. Moreover, the current US leadership has articulated quite clearly in their National Security Strategy that the United States will take actions to stymie China's power ascension and work to prevent the massive country from equaling or surpassing US power. Indeed, this policy paper argues that "in pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, China is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness". The paper further states, in an indirect reference to China, that the US "must build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge".
[The key phrase in above paragraph is "the United States will take actions to stymie China's power ascension and work to prevent the massive country from equaling or surpassing US power".]
This course of action by the United States is not surprising. The reason that the US has found itself in such a privileged position in the world has been due to its regional hegemony in the Western Hemisphere and the lack of regional hegemons elsewhere. When the potential hegemonic state of Germany rose to power in WWI and WWII, the US aided in that country's demise. When Tokyo attempted regional hegemony in the 1930s and 1940s, the US took actions to stifle the country's power such as placing a devastating full-scale embargo on Japan and fighting a major war in order to prevent Japan's power lunge. The United States also put troops in Europe following WWII to warn the Soviet Union against any attempt at gaining European hegemony. Therefore, if China were to become a potential hegemon and achieve the same amount of power in Asia that the US has achieved in the Western Hemisphere, the United States would take actions to weaken China and prevent its quest for more power.
[Above paragraph sets stage for everything that follows. Privileged position of US comes from its regional hegemony and US is bent on preventing any other nation or group of nations from achieving comparable hegemony in any other region. US won't let others have what it has, enjoy what it enjoys.]
This realization has preoccupied members of the Bush administration, in addition to select members of the US Congress, who consistently talk of the need to contain China. These individuals are pushing for an increase in military ties with various Asian states, such as Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines. They have also advocated the positioning of US military bases and forces on China's western flank in Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. In countries such as Taiwan and Japan - which are dependent on US economic and military aid - these officials have called for allowing these two countries to further develop their military programs in order to act as a bulwark against the powerful China of the future. These policies are controversial as Japan previously had hegemonic ambitions in Asia. Supplying boosted amounts of military aid to Taiwan is also a divisive issue, as any such aid is an obvious threat to the Chinese leadership which considers Taiwan part of the mainland.
[Why should Japan or any other nation help the United States achieve its "divide and dominate" strategy? By working against, rather than for, regional cooperation with its neighbors, isn't Japan just helping the US dominate both itself and its neighbors?]
US officials are aware that China's future economic and military might is inevitable. This is part of the reason why there are roughly 41,000 US troops in Japan, 37,000 in South Korea, and 19,000 on naval vessels in East Asia. Yet as China's power grows, the US will likely have to increase its military might in order to continue to rival China. But since US troops are usually stretched thin, augmenting current US forces in Asia to keep a growing China in check may not be feasible. Therefore, by building up the strength of US allies in Asia, the United States can attempt to contain China's potential power projection without actually having to commit and risk US forces. However, there is plenty of time before China would be able to rival the United States in power in Asia.
[Why should Japan and its neighbors supply forces to help the US dominate Asia without committing and risking US forces?]
It is true that China has increased its military spending in recent years. In 2002, China increased its defense spending 18 percent, reflecting the modernization of its armed forces. Beijing is aware that in order to secure its interests in Asia it will need to be able to have enough military power to at least provide a stumbling block to unrestrained US foreign policy. For example, the US Department of Defense explained in its 2002 Annual Report on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China that, "Beijing apparently believes that the United States poses a significant long-term challenge". While it is unable, and unwilling, to compete with the US in military spending, Beijing is attempting to boost its military potential in order to secure its direct interests such as preventing the US from helping Taiwan remain an independent entity apart from the mainland.
Therefore, Beijing has accelerated production of short-range ballistic missiles that could be used in any future conflict with Taiwan and also to confound any US attempt to defend the small island. The Pentagon assessment states that China has deployed 450 short-range ballistic missiles able to strike Taiwan and is planning on boosting that arsenal by 75 missiles a year. In addition to developing an advanced, medium-range missile capable of striking Japan - including the major US bases in Okinawa - China has also purchased more modern weapons from Russia, such as the Su-27 and Su-30 military jets, and a few Sovremenny Class destroyers. These developments would help China gain leverage in any conflict with Taiwan. The Pentagon report observes: "Should China use force against Taiwan, its primary goal likely would be to compel a quick negotiated solution on terms favorable to Beijing".
[In other words, China is developing capability to strike Japan and other neighbors aiding the US against China? What motive would China have for striking Japan or other neighbors if they were not aiding the US against itself? For that matter, what motive would North Korea have for striking Japan if Japan were not helping the US againgst itself?]
However, other than increasing the costs to the US of assisting Taiwan in any such attack, China's military modernization poses no threat to US interests in all of Asia. While the US Department of Defense claims that China has over 3,000 combat aircraft, only about 100 of those are modern aircraft such as the recent purchases from Russia. On the other hand, the United States currently has more than 3,000 combat aircraft and all of them are modern, fourth-generation aircraft. The US naval fleet is also unprecedented in power, composing 12 large aircraft carriers. In addition, despite China's modernization program, the US is modernizing at an even faster pace. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States was responsible for almost seventy-five percent of the worldwide growth in military spending in 2002. While China now spends $40 billion on its military per year, the United States spends a whopping $400 billion.
[How does Japan or any other nation benefit when the United States, which consistently has demonstrated greed and caprice, is responsible for seventy-five percent of the worldwide growth in military spending and spends ten times more than Japan's strongest neighbor? How does ensuring US dominance really serve the long-term interests of Japan and its people?]
Such an unbelievably high rate of spending by the United States will guarantee that China will have the utmost difficulty competing for raw military power. China also lacks the industrial edge to develop new technologies on its own, which explains why it has been purchasing its most modern military equipment from Russia. The United States, on the other hand, is at the forefront of new military technology. Furthermore, the United States has the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to sustain such spending. While since major political and economic reforms in 1978, China's GDP grew at a rate of 10 percent a year until the mid-1990s and currently stands around seven to eight percent a year, its GDP is still 1.19 trillion compared to 10 trillion in the United States. Considering this inequality, it will take years and probably decades before China is more on par with the US' potential power.
[Above paragraph overlooks the tremendous, unprecedented, US trade and fiscal deficits and the fact that only massive, unprecedented, loans from Japan, China and their Asian neighbors allow the United States to sustain those deficits. How long will Japan, China, and their Asian neighbors continue bankrolling US attempts to maintain hegemony over themselves?]
Overall, the future ascension of China to great power status is inevitable if it follows its current economic and military course. While it will be many years before China poses a threat to US interests in Asia, US policymakers have already begun planning on how to counter China's growing power. And it is this reaction that will push China and the United States further apart. As the US continues to boost military spending in Asia, and does not withdraw from countries neighboring China, Beijing will continue to plan on one day removing the United States from Asia. The Department of Defense notes in its annual report that China's leaders have asserted that the United States seeks to maintain a dominant geostrategic position by containing the growth of Chinese power, ultimately 'dividing' and 'Westernizing' China. Beijing has interpreted the strengthening US-Japan security alliance increased US presence in the Asia-Pacific region, and efforts to expand NATO, as manifestations of Washington's strategy.
[Note the irony in the phrase "China poses a threat to US interests in Asia" above. The author never suggests that China or any other nation poses any threat, or even has any desire to pose any threat, to US borders - or even to US interests in the Americas. The only "threats" discussed in this article are threats by Asian nations to US "interests" in Asia. Chinese should be concerned about US and other Western nations trying to divide and Westernize China, as they've been doing so for the past 160 years. Isn't it time for China, Japan, and other Asian nations to bond together in a union strong enough to tell the United States to confine its "interests" to its own borders and to recognize the sovereign rights of other nations to pursue their own interests within their own borders? A union strong enough to tell the United States that and to make it stick.]
Similar to how the United States effectively prevented European powers from exploiting the markets in the Americas by establishing the Monroe Doctrine in 1823, China will follow its own doctrine to prevent the United States from exploiting markets in Asia. In the same fashion the United States reacted to the Soviet Union increasing military ties with Cuba, when possible China will not allow the United States to increase military ties with Taiwan and other Asian states. The leaders of both China and the United States recognize that in the coming decades a power clash is inevitable. It still remains to be seen, however, whether China will be as successful at gaining regional hegemony in the 21st century as the United States was during the 19th century.
[The problem with this last paragraph, and an underlying problem with the whole essay, is that the author projects US values on China, Western values on Asians. Western Eurpopean nations throughout history have been hunters rather than farmers, conquerors of others rather than cultivators of their own, nations that compete forcefully rather than cooperate peacefully. The United States has been the dominant archetype of those Western European characteristics during the past century. The author seems to assume that since the United States seeks hegemony, any nation not wishing to be dominated by the United States is competing for hegemony. Prior to incursions by Western nations in the past 160 years, China and other Asian nations maintained mutual, cooperative relations with one another. I see no reason they cannot regain such relations, with no one of them attempting or even desiring hegemony over the others; all they need to do is stop aiding US attempts to maintain hegemony over Asia and rid themselves of predatory values the US and other Western invaders have implanted during the past 160 years. Bill Totten, February 26 2004]
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