Chinamerica Threat Roundup 7

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Welcome to the latest Chinamerica Roundup! This is a collection of news, analysis, and blogging pertaining to China as an emerging military threat with growing influence in a socialist Latin America.

The index to all related posts is here. Links to individual sections can be created by adding "#N" to the permalink for this page, where N is the section number (e.g., "...-roundup-7.html#2").

Now that I've finally gotten some RSS feeds set up, I might be able to do these more frequently. Also, I'd like to point out a new source of interesting news on China over at Phatic Communion: Curtis Weeks's China Watch.

Is China willing to nuke Los Angeles in the process of invading Taiwan? Should we be concerned about the rising level of Chinese investment in our economy? Do China's professors get to voice their opinions freely over the Internet? Will the John Walker spy scandal of the Cold War once again threaten our vital naval supremacy? Is China ruled by Communists or "Human Capital-ists"? And why are the Japanese having to eat humble pie as an appetizer in restaurants in mainland China?

Read about all this and more in this week's roundup!

(1) Chinese Saber-Rattling

Today's wake-up call: China, all but ready to invade Taiwan, has stated that it will use nuclear weapons to retaliate against any effort on our part to help Taiwan defend itself from invasion.

China is prepared to use nuclear weapons against the US if it is attacked by Washington during a confrontation over Taiwan, according to a senior Chinese military official.

"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition on to the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," Zhu Chenghu, a major general in the People's Liberation Army, said at an official briefing.

Mr Zhu, who is also a professor at China's National Defence University, was speaking at a function for foreign journalists organised, in part, by the Chinese government. He added that China's definition of its territory includes warships and aircraft [and Taiwan --ed, italics added].

This follows on the heels of a joint declaration with Russia earlier today on "the new world order."

Only on the basis of universally recognized tenents and norms of international law, and under an impartial and rational world order, can problems facing mankind be solved, says the document.

All countries should strictly observe the principles of mutual respect for each other's sovereignty and territorial integrity, mutual non-aggression, non-interference in each other's internal affairs [italics added], equality and mutual benefit, and peaceful coexistence, it says.

Hmmm. The first is a direct threat to the United States should it act to defend its ally, Taiwan. The second is China telling us that we must seek permission from the U.N. before doing anything -- while China can do whatever it wants once it makes any necessary tweaks to its definition of "internal affairs."

(And if China's infinitely elastic definition of "internal affairs" makes you think of its favorite American politician and linguist, Bill Clinton, then you'll see that this segues nicely into the next article.)

(2) China and the U.S. Economy

Recent bids by China to buy U.S. companies remind me of a point I hemhawed around awhile back. I feel a bit more confident that my position on Chinese investment in the American economy is probably correct after reading this article.
China-bashing is rich coming from the Clintons. In the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton called "most favored nation" trading status for China "unconscionable." In office, his conscience quickly gave way, as he embraced most-favored-nation status and sent his commerce secretary to Beijing to grovel for business deals. In 1996, Chinese agents helped raise funds for his re-election campaign. When the Clintons complain of kowtowing to China and dependence on Chinese money, they know whereof they speak.

By rights, Japan should still be the chief "how dare they invest here" whipping boy, but Japan-baiting feels so 1985. Its economy is still four times bigger than China's, and it owns more U.S. treasuries. It has roughly $680 billion to China's $225 billion. If the U.S. economy is threatened by a foreign power it is Japan, which -- by the Clintons' logic -- should have taken us over long ago.

When other countries buy up our debt, it isn't nefarious. As David Malpass of Bear Stearns points out, Japan owns so many U.S. bonds because its aging population wants to own safe but relatively high-performing assets. The Chinese, meanwhile, link their currency to the dollar and invest their dollar holdings in U.S. treasuries. This dollar linkage has provided a stable environment for robust Chinese economic growth. Democrats who complain about cheap Chinese labor should welcome this, since sustained growth is the only way to boost a country's wages.
Read the whole thing.

How far the Chinese boom will go has been a subject of much discussion lately. Awhile back, I blogged about why Mark Steyn sees China falling behind India in the long haul.

(3) China and Intellectual Freedom

Martin Lindeskog has a nice roundup on the lack of MSN (Free) Spaces in China.

But what if you get around the restrictions that China is placing on blogs with Microsoft's help? And what if you are a respected academic? Might your standing offer you some protection? Not if you're Chinese. Read about China's new war on academic dissent in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Paul Ropp, a Clark University historian who is working on a book on dissent, says that throughout Chinese history the Confucian literati -- members of the scholar class who held positions in the imperial bureaucracy -- believed it their sacred duty to rectify abuses in government, even at the cost of their own lives. He cites the case of the Han historian Sima Qian (145-85 BC), who was given the option of committing suicide or facing castration for criticizing Emperor Han Wudi. (He chose castration.)

"It is too seldom recognized that all of these traditions have survived to the present day in the Chinese popular consciousness," Mr. Ropp says.

Sadly, this will continue to be accurate if the benighted Chinese Communist Party has its way. (Come to think of it, castration might help the proles comply with the one-child law mentioned below. Shhh! Let's not give the Commies any ideas.) But the article also shows how the Internet has, despite efforts by the Chi Comms to control it, has revolutionized communication nonetheless.

(4) The Chinese Military Buildup

It is bad enough that the Chinese submarine fleet, which includes boats that can fire missiles onto the U.S. mainland, may soon outnumber ours by two to one. What's worse is that Russia may be providing China the means to eliminate our current acoustic advantage. From the article at Strategy Page:
The most serious damage done to the U.S. Navy since World War II, occurred during the 1980s, when Soviet intelligence efforts developed two well placed agents in the U.S. Navy (John Walker and Jerry Whitworth). This spy operation revealed to the Russians how noisy (and easy to detect) their subs were, and what needed to be done to make them quieter. In two decades of effort, the Russians have made their subs so quiet that they can only be detected a few kilometers away by American sensors. In the 1980s, American subs could usually spot their Russian counterparts hundreds of kilometers away. Russia is now selling this "quieting" technology to China.
In the meantime, the Sub Report links to a story about how our shipbuilding industrial base is being permitted to deteriorate.

In most naval ship subsystem and component categories there is only one U.S. manufacturer remaining, Brown notes. Eighty-percent of the components manufactured for the Virginia Class submarine come from sole sources. "Production rates are not high enough to sustain more than one company and the companies left are struggling to stay in business," says Brown, whose membership includes the six major shipyards and 70 suppliers.

The U.S. industry, which employs 350,000 people, is producing six ships per year. (Market leader, Hyundai Heavy Industries of South Korea, produced 60 ships last year.) U.S. production is set to decline to four next year, due in part to the high cost of steel, a result of booming demand in China. The Navy says nine or 10 ships need to be built each year in order to have a 300-ship armada.

In the only immediate glimmer of hope, we are at least training (via Sub Report) with India's Naval fleet. (See also my post on the United States playing the "India card".)
The Navy is to take part in anti-piracy exercises in the Indian Ocean with ASEAN nations this month. It will go head-to-head with the US Navy in the Arabian Sea in September and with the French Navy in the Gulf of Aden two months later.

This is the first time that the Navy will be training with the US and French fleets, among the world's most advanced.
To temper this news, there will also be training with the Russian fleet. (Maybe India wants to have a "Russian card" of its own to play if the chips are down....)

In parallel with this news, you can find more information on Chinese military modernization here.
The International Assessment and Strategy Center has some stunning information on China’s plans for modernization of its armed forces, gleaned from disclosures at two arms shows, one in Bangalore, and another in Abu Dhabi.
(5) China's "Human Capital"

Since China regards its own citizens (as well as all ethnic Chinese) as property, I suggest a new name for the Communist Party. Call them the "Human Capital-ist Party." Unlike money and other assets, however, human capital tends not to be that docile, necessitating that the government attend to (often violently) thousands of protests each year due to such things as land confiscation. Might another Tiananmen occur? One writer seems to think so.
But it is much harder for China's rulers to admit that Chinese people might actually want greater democracy. Perhaps it is a lingering Marxist worldview, but Beijing explains all such disturbances in purely economic terms. People are upset? It must be about the economy. The solution is to find ways to give them more prosperity. If people are busy getting on with their lives, they will be happy and not agitate for political reforms. This was essentially how Beijing responded to Tiananmen, and it was how it read the mood of Hong Kong after half a million people demonstrated for democracy last year.

It can work for a while, but inevitably it will lead to further blowups. It may be true that the demonstrators sixteen years ago did not debate the finer points of Westminster-style parliamentary democracy for China. Yet, the Tiananmen was fundamentally and profoundly democratic. Yes, they may have been angry about their leaders growing corruption. But the people who say the revolt was against corruption are only half right. The underlying message was this: Our leaders are corrupt and we cant do anything to get rid of them. And that is the truth of Tiananmen.
This state ownership of its citizens extends to reproductive rights. The Human Capital-ists have weighed the cost of ownership against the value of having more "human capital" and have chosen to own fewer humans in the future. So they jailed a woman who had a second baby in violation of the one child law.

Riding Sun quotes Kyodo News:
They knew Tao had a 5-year-old girl. Tao denied the second child. The deputy township chief ordered a spot medical check, which showed signs of a recent birth. Suddenly township government representatives she had never met asked her to go with them to the yellow house.
Consistent with this policy of keeping the amount of "human capital" down, the government is quite happy to permit smoking! And sells beer "purified" with formaldehyde! However, don't even think about surfing the internet for porn!

(6) China and Japan

China continues hypocritically harping on Japan's textbooks.

[Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao] warned that the Japanese side should educate its young generation with a correct view of history in line with taking highly responsible [sic] for history and the future.

"This conduces to improving Japan's relations with its Asian neighbors and its international image, and complies with Japan's own interests," said the spokesman.

And all your base are belong to us. In the meantime, China shows its understanding of how to improve its relations with Japan: by holding its current citizens responsible for what happened over half a century ago! (Riding Sun quotes Reuters here.)
Japanese customers must apologise for their country's wartime occupation of China before getting a seat at a restaurant in former Manchuria or find another place to eat, Japan's Kyodo news agency said on Tuesday.
Japan, taking note of its loutish neighbor's idea of "improved relations", has wisely moved closer to officially remilitarizing itself.
Of course, Article 9 notwithstanding, Japan has long maintained a massively powerful military force in all but name: its jieitai, or Self-Defense Forces.

The proposed constitutional revision, therefore, is largely symbolic. However, it might make it easier for Japan to participate in collective defense with allied nations -- for example, to shoot down missiles North Korea fires at America, something Japan had previously said it would not do.

(7) North Korea

Wow! It took only a year and a month to beg North Korea to return to the table to discuss putting aside its nuclear ambitions! There is some speculation that we, ahem, got taken to the cleaners in the process.
To this hobbyist-blogger, it certainly appears as though the United States agreed to oppose the expansion of the [United Nations Security Council] and take the heat from the aspirants, and in return China agreed to ask, or more probably order, North Korea back into the six-party talks.
Consider these two facts above in item (1): A: China wants the U.S. to kowtow to the U.N. before doing anything, and we may have just passed up a chance to get some allies onto the Security Council. B Who needs North Korea to threaten us with nukes when China just did so themselves?

None of this is comforting news at all. The six-party talks themselves are an exercise in appeasement and we're having to appease from here to kingdom come just to hold them at all!


And if we're hoping for an end to this via the fall of the communist regime, Michael Barone points out that we ought to have some kind of contingency plan in mind for such an event.

(8) Latin America

The recent passage of Hurricane Dennis through Cuba last week may destabilize the Caribbean slave state.

So much for the positive developments in Latin America. In the meantime, Hugo Chavez is consolidating his regional power through his military buildup and control of the region's oil supply.
But it's probably more than that, given the expensiveness of the exercises. The stepped-up military activity is no doubt a message to the rest of the Caribbean that not only can the region's bully cut off their oil, it can also put on a vast military show. And because it's actively practicing, it'll be very skilled. This intimidating message won't be lost on any of the countries trapped in the new Venezuela-Cuba oil net - a group which includes Costa Rica, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Jamaica and other states that must buy Venezuelan oil now from Havana. Not only can Chavez cut off their oil, he can also threaten them physically if they don't see things his way. They know very well the U.S. has no intention of invading Venezuela, so the moves are there for them to consider.
And, as if Chavez's threats to the region are not bad enough, he seems to keep finding new allies. We already have to worry about Mexico electing a friend of Chavez for president. Now, we have the specter Daniel Ortega returning to power in Nicaragua as well.

Chavez, also known to his countrymen as El Loco, is also in the business of buying influence in South America. From The Devil's Excrement:
The news coming out of the Venezuelan Government are by now either bordering in madness or we are seeing the implementation of a plan to buy Chavez and his Government friends by throwing money all over Latin America in order to get political support. Besides giving away oil to Cuba, starting Telesur, creating Petrocaribe to spread the oil even further, financing a Samba school in Rio and buying Argentina’s debt, we now hear in the span of a few hours even more harebrained schemes:

-Venezuela will buy half of the Uruguayan airline from Brazilian airline Varig.

-Venezuela will buy Ecuadorian bonds to help that country.

-Venezuela proposes starting a bond trading center in Venezuela so that the country’s in the region can buy each other’s debt. Of course, as pointed out by a friend, the only country with money to do this is Venezuela, so guess which country will do all the buying?

This is simply sheer madness. A country that has borrowed so far this year over US$ 3 billion by issuing foreign debt, a country with close to 70% poverty, a Government which can not claim it has built any serious basic infrastructure in the last few years, can not throw money away like this…unless…the whole thing is simply an effort to buy influence, popularity and political support for Hugo Chavez and his ugly revolution.
Perhaps Chavez, in living up to his name, will over-reach.

-- CAV


7-15-05: Added additional link on Chinese military modernization.

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