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Asia's Game of Thrones
China Laying More Groundwork in the South China Sea

With Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Asia this week, Reuters broke the story that China has started new construction work on yet another island in the South China Sea:

An image of North Island in the Paracels group taken on March 6 shows recent work including land clearing and possible preparation for a harbor to support what experts believe may be eventual military installations. Initial work was damaged in a typhoon last year.

The pictures, provided by private satellite firm Planet Labs, follow reports in January showing work undertaken on nearby Tree Island and other features in the Paracels, which are also claimed by Vietnam and Taiwan.

Diplomats briefed on latest Western intelligence assessments say Beijing is pursuing efforts to dominate its maritime ‘backyard’, even if it tweaks the timing of moves to avoid being overtly provocative.

“The Paracels are going to be vital to any future Chinese attempt to dominate the South China Sea,” said Carl Thayer, a South China Sea expert at Australia’s Defence Force Academy.

North Island is not one of China’s manmade islands, but preparing for a harbor or military installations there would have serious strategic implications. According to experts, reinforcing North Island will help to protect the missile launchers, jet fighters, and civilian facilities at nearby Woody Island, while also shielding the Chinese nuclear deterrent at Hainan.

China’s activity at the Paracels is sure to spook Vietnam, which claims the islands for itself. Hanoi has been known to react assertively to China’s maritime maneuvers: last year, for instance, it extended a runway at the Spratlys and begun dredging work at a disputed reef. Vietnam is still mum on what it will do next, but Taiwan (the Paracels’ other claimaint) has lately been sending out distress signals about China’s activity in the region.

As for the U.S. reaction, one source quoted by Reuters argues that Trump will be too distracted by other priorities to put up a fight over the South China Sea. But we’re not so sure: judging by the hawkish rhetoric of Trump and Tillerson on the subject, and Secretary Mattis’ long-established inclination to take a stronger stand against China’s maritime claims, the South China Sea is likely to figure highly on Trump’s agenda. Tillerson’s Asian trip this week should provide clues as to how Trump plans to confront Beijing on the issue.

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  • Dhako

    Don’t bet on it, chaps. In other words, the Chinese took the measure of this buffoon in the white house, and they did indeed took his number. Furthermore, he came in office with all manner of bluster and braggadocio towards China, and he even took Taiwan as his first test of toughness against China. And when the staring across the Taiwan issue begun, there was eye-ball to eye-ball on this issue. And of course, hard for it for you chaps, to accept it, it was him, and no one else, who blinked first. And at that point, the Chinese seems to get whole picture of this “Russian stooge” in the White-House. And most crucially of all, what he is really made off.

    Moreover, I am sure of it, that, he will bluster and huff and puff up his chess for the edification of his ill-educated plebs in the Rust-Belt regions of the US, or in the “fly-over-country” in the continental USA. But, most crucially of all, he is basically a man looking for a way to enrich his family’s posterity, paid off his Russian’s money he borrowed. And he will do that, by optimally monetizing” his brand name while he is a president (which is what his children will do for him, while he pass and preen himself off as the US’s president in the White-House). And, he will play to the gallery in the meantime, by “othering” few immigrants in the US.

    As for China, he knows, if he were to start a trade war, the first casualty will be, companies like Apple, GE, Boeing, Intel, Qualcomm, and many other high-end of the US’s tech-sector. Hence, although he doesn’t know this, due to his incredible incuriousness on his part, but his treasury and commerce secretaries know all there is to know about this issue. And once, the US’s lobby group representing these companies get to work on him, he will move on and find another internal target to distract his ill-educated plebs.

    And, finally, he already gave up the ghost of TPP, which at least could of meant, that, the US would have a partners who has a financial incentive to side with US, in the event of a confrontations between the US and China, on the South China sea. But since he did “cut-and-run” from the TPP, and as a consequences of it, left the likes of Malaysia, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, Brunei, in the lurch and left them to take care their businesses with China, without having any fall-back support from the US, then, these states are really not interesting in anything he says about any issue, be it trade discussion, or be it, that of the South China sea. This is the reality in which the US is facing in the pacific rim states, and no empty talk of Tillerson, or Matis, or even the from buffoon in the white-house, will change this strategical reality.

    • Proverbs1618

      So now you know what other people, heads of states no less, are thinking? Wow, you must be truly gifted in telepathy. I bow before your obviously superior analysis based on your gift of clairvoyance. You get an upvote.

      • Dhako

        No, but, it’s basically reading the reality on the ground in the region. Of course, I do take it, that most Trump’s supporters are not – shall we say- “blessed” with any kind of deep analytical of the kind that is written in here. But, whatever it’s worth don’t go around in believing reading the reality on the ground in Asia requires some sort of assist from your nearest clairvoyance lady who you could find. I know, it’s difficult for any Trump’s political groupies to have the intellect to read open book of the kind the reality of Asia is. But, still, it’s best not to self-servingly say, you would need the help of “balm-readers” sort of folks to clue you up on this region.

        • ——————————

          “deep analytical”

          The Rube Goldberg of Mental Masturbation.

          Occam’s Razor trumps….

        • Proverbs1618

          So now you perceive reality as it really exists, without any biases inherent in human perception? Dude, you are getting more impressive by the comment. I fully expect you to tell me you discovered cold fusion in the next post. Don’t disappoint me.

      • ——————————

        “You get an upvote”

        Perhaps his first…and last….

  • KremlinKryptonite

    It is still unclear if these are Xi’s foreign policy blunders alone – being a creature of the PLA, or if elements of the PLA are actually pulling his strings.
    Either way, the effect is the same – No one has done more to make the US welcome in Asia than Xi.

    Since 2013, Xi’s foreign policy blunders have unraveled years of careful efforts by the CCP to persuade its Asian neighbors of the “win-win” benefits of China’s “peaceful rise.”
    Under Xi, Beijing has suffered a series of diplomatic setbacks so counterproductive that they raise serious questions about his foreign-policy competence.

    Perhaps the Politburo Standing Committee should reread the anonymous open letter by a party member that urged Xi to resign in March of last year.

    • Dhako

      On the contrary, the sight of US cutting-and-running from the TPP, was actually worth more in “gold” of compensation for any ill-feeling these states have had against China on the South China issue. In other words, every single nation (including Vietnam) that had any issue with China on the South China Sea, effectively, decided to “shelf’ their differences with China, once it became clear, that the US is in a long-term retreat from this region. Hence, the reason, the likes of Malaysia, Philippines, have decided to openly “tilt” towards China against a Trump-led USA.

      Furthermore, even, the Vietnamese, who could be expected to put up a bit of a “stiff-upper-lip” towards the Chinese, have decided, that, now that China is the only economical game in town, to cut its loses with them. And go for a sweat-talk diplomacy between the Vietnamese Communist party and the Chinese Communist Party. And the thinking is that, through this party-to-party “dialogue” a situation can be created whereby a “political amity” between the two states could be had, long before the leadership of the both states meets, officially, in-order to bury the hatchet in a face-to-face talks. And this will probably happen soon after the Chinese side indicates how much of a “given mood” they are feeling in-terms of “sharing” some of the “extraction-able” wealth underneath the South China Sea with the likes of Vietnam, on the basis of an agreed formula.

      And, lastly, even, the South Korea, who was always an “all-weather-friend” to the US, as you probably know, is showing a distinct sign of “wobbling” on the fence. Which means, once this presidential election in South Korea takes place, then, the incoming leftish-government, which already “telegraphed” their intention to singularly side with China against US, if the issue of the day is what to do about North Korea, or even, in a broader strategical alignment in this region, will effectively mean, the issue of the THAAD system is still up for grabs.

      Hence, when you put all these “factors” together, you will easily see as to who is losing their grip on this region, both economically and strategically. And furthermore, you will see, as to who, on the other hand, is gaining ground. Which means, its certainly not the US who is smelling roses in this region, at least strategically, regardless of how much guff talk you tell yourself in the meantime.

      • KremlinKryptonite

        A brief review of the last three or four years shows a remarkable string of foreign-policy failures and defeats for Xi. Let’s look at the CCP foreign policy blunders in more detail.
        1. (SCS) The Hague ruled against the Nine Dash Line, undermining a pillar of CCP foreign policy in Asia and undermining the smiley-face Xi.

        2. (THAAD) The Hague decision was preceded by SK decision to deploy THAAD in the face of a security dilemma that china helped create by supporting NK.
        Furthermore, China’s overbearing posture, and call for SK to prioritize Beijing’s security concerns over Seoul’s, aimed to drive a wedge into the US-SK alliance, but did just the opposite. The THAAD decision moved SK closer to the US and opened the door wider to trilateral US-SK-Japan strategic cooperation, long anathema to the Chinese Communist Party.

        3. (NK) The THAAD decision, of course, was related to the failure of Chinese diplomacy to rein in North Korea’s nuclear and missile test programs. Indeed, Pyongyang thumbing its nose at Beijing’s admonitions not to conduct nuclear and missile tests was a stunning rebuke. Xi had sent a special envoy to Pyongyang to persuade North Korea against a ballistic missile test. Yet, literally as he deboarded the airplane, North Korea announced it would conduct the missile test. And for spite, Pyongyang launched it on the eve of Chinese New Year.

        4. (Senkakus) Chinese defeat on the Korean peninsula was preceded by defeat in the Senkakus, the disputed rocks which Beijing had attempted to use to drive a wedge into the US-Japan alliance by raising the question of whether the United States would support Japan in a conflict with China. But in April 2014, during a visit to Japan, Obama made clear that Article V of the alliance extends to the Senkakus.

        5. (Japan Remilitarization) Meanwhile, China’s continuing air and naval incursions into the Senkakus and East China Sea have had a major impact on Japan’s security policy, leading to the decision in 2014 to reinterpret the constitution to allow for the exercise of collective self-defense and the 2015 US-Japan defense guidelines, which recognize a wider Japanese regional security role. Last spring, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships made port calls in Subic Bay in the Philippines, Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam, and Sydney Harbor in Australia — to Beijing’s horror!

        6. (Beyond Asia) the losing streak continued in Europe, where the EU, despite Chinese pressure, rejected Beijing’s bid to be granted “market economy status” in the WTO. Instead, China’s oversupply of steel and other products triggered an anti-dumping tariff from the EU and US.

        In addition, heavy handed Chinese nationalist economic policies penalizing European and US businesses in favor of China’s “national champions,” particularly in the IT sector, have disillusioned the US business community, long the foundation of support for the US-China relationship.

        • Suzy Dixon

          WOW! What a well worded and comprehensive look.

        • Dhako

          Again, wishful thinking at it’s best. So, lets see how your fiction stuck up against reality, shall we:

          1- On the issue of the Hague tribunal and the SCS, unless you are hallucinating, the very nation in whose favor the ruling came up, which is the Philippines, effectively, said it, its null and void. And they no longer willing to take up this issue as the basis of dealing the SCS issue. And for good measure, the president of the Philippines said it, himself, that its a piece of paper, and they no longer interesting pursuing this issue on legal ground. But, rather he is opening a new chapter with his Chinese counterpart without getting all legalistic with them. So, that is a deep strategical reversal on the part of the US, who wanted this legal case to be the “cudgel” to which to use it against China.

          2-On the THAAD System on issue, its true the US have had an opening to install this system, once the new leader of the North Korea decided to play a bit of mischief-making, and the recently departed President Park, decided to acquiesce with the US’s agenda. But as you know this, since, you told us that you do live in South Korea, the issue is far from over, despite every effort of the Trump’s team (particularly Mr Tillerson) to “bounce” the incoming left-tilting would-be new government of South Korea, to give a carte-blanche to the US, and say, the THAAAD system is here to stay for good. So, if I were you, we shall see whether the THAAD system is there for good, once we see the intention of Mr Moon would-be government. So, lets hold our horses till then, shall we.

          3- on the issue of North Korea, it’s true the young mad-man who govern that country, didn’t see eye-to-eye with the then “blossoming” relationship between President Park of South Korea and President Xi of China, at least in the early years of President Park time in office, and in fact, she was there at the Beijing’s celebration of the end of the World War II ceremony with President Putin and with President Xi. However, because of that immaturity on the part of the mad-man in North Korea, the relationship between South Korea and China took a turn for the worse, which in turn force the hand of President Part to accept the installation of the American THAAAD system in South Korea. But, now as you know there is a whole new ball game in town, which will be on the back of this South Korea’s election. And with the desire of Mr Moon to establish a version of the sun-shine policies with South Korea as well as his desire to “revisit” the whole of the THAAD issue once a new understanding is reach on the direction of South-Korea and DPRK. So, again, you are too premature to take a victory lap in here, in my view.

          4- On Senkakus issue, contrary to what you are telling yourself, the Chinese knew all along that the US was always a treaty-partner with Japan, and would come to aid of Japan in the event of China and Japan going to war. And that has been the case, ever since the end of the WWII, which was when Japan became nothing but a “glorified vassal state” in the Pacific for the US’s hegemonic agenda in that part of the world. Hence, Obama, didn’t do anything other to say the obvious things that was already “baked-in” within the treaty that the US have had with Japan. So, I am afraid, you are splittings a meager semantics in here, so that, you can turn a molehill of already understood strategical assumption into a mountain of a victory on the part of Japan, when in fact, it’s nothing of the kind.

          5- Again, you are so desperate to talk it up the Japanese internal military re-organisation as if China was expecting Japan to do nothing about what their military calculation would have told them to do. in other words, firstly, the Japanese military re-organisation (or re-militarization) was always something that the certain section of Japan wanted it, so long as they could rely on the “assent” of their military patron in the US. which is the sole reason the various right-wing government of Japan weren’t able to what the current Shinzo Abe’s government is doing in this front, since, the US didn’t previously see the need for Japan to re-militarized itself at the account of China. And now that the US is feeling the heat from China in this part of the world, then, the assent was given for Japan to go ahead with her militarization. Of course, that Japan is turning to her into a kind of UK state with nominal army, even if she is under the direction of US, doesn’t mean, that China has lost anything that was not already “bake-in” in the Chinese calculation of what will happen once China come to became a military power in the region. Which means, it may be a novelty to you, but the fact, once China became a military power that can “contest” the US’s predominance in the pacific, it was certain in the mind of the Chinese’s strategical thinkers, that the likes of Japan (even being a vassal state for the US and all) was going to do precisely this method of recreating a normal military platform.

          So, again, you are nitpicking at the margins of “assumption” that was already in the calculations of the Chinese side, in-order for you to turn it another bull-eye’s win against the forces who are arrayed against China, when in fact, it’s nothing of the sort. And, of course, these Japanese naval exercise and the calling of ports of these states, are essentially the “details” of those assumptions the Chinese side have already made about the consequences of what will follow once China came to decide to flex its growing military muscle in her region. So, again, there is no novelty of even a seminal win for Japan from this other than seeing the details of the strategical play-book Japan was destined to follow it through once China’s predominance in her region became a fact on the ground.

          6- On the issue of wider world (and beyond Asia), before I take apart your assumption in the wider world, let me loiter a bit in Asia, and show you, how the US is losing there, although I do understand that perhaps you may not want to dwell on it. And by that, I mean, countries like Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Laos, are as we speak ever so openly tilting towards China. And you should know that, if really know anything about this region. Furthermore, countries like Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, Indonesia, are in effect, “hedging’ their bets and are in effect sitting on the fence. And once, the Chinese-led RCEP multilateral trade deal gets underway, then, they will, inch by inch, ever more perceptively, make their “peace” and understanding with China. So, again, I do understand why you are reluctant to look this region in its totality and see who side (i.e., Chinese or Americans) have the wind behind their strategical sail (as it were).

          As for the wider world, you really need not detain yourself with this sort of guff, my friend. in other words, the whole of African continent, the bulk of South America, the most of Eurasian landmass states, particularly the most of the “Stan states”, are effectively Chinese “locked-market”. Or to put it another way, thew US, is not even on the game, much less having a ball to which to compete against the likes of China where these teeming nations are concern.

          As for EU, again, the issue of the “Market status” which is what China was expecting to get from them, may have hit a snug due to the German’s ambivalence about the Chinese competitions in certain high-end manufacturing sector. But, now since a certain Mr Navarro at the white-house, told the Germans that Trump’s administration has their eye on Germany’s trade surplus with the US, effectively means that once Mrs Merkel goes through her election in this September, she will in Beijing looking forward to deal with China, now that she has an avowed enemy in the White house against the German’s interest. So, if I were you, I would not, again, rush to take a victory lap about the EU’s position in-terms of whether the EU gives the Chinese side the said “Market Status” from their side. But, we shall see this issue within this year. Which is the reason I kept saying, that Mr Trump is really a the gift that is keep on given to China, since, he decided to cut-and-run from the TPP. And for good measure, seem to have decided to take on Germany, who was the only power in the EU that could have helped him to create a transatlantic pincer-movement against China, when it comes to containing the Chinese economical footprint in the Europe at least.

          As for the US-China relation is concern, and the role the US’s tech sector played, well, its true that was case in early years when China needed to catch up the know-how of these companies. But, now, things have changed, and it will be the American’s companies who will need to get access to the Chinese internal market for their profits (and you could ask the likes of Apple, whether they could do without the Chinese market or not). So, again, instead of absurdly thinking that these American’s companies are doing a favor to China, why not ask them, how they will fare in the event of a trade-war between China and the US, and get back to me, afterwards, as to whether your assertions about the role these companies play in the relationship between China and the US, has anything that could be remotely call a favor these companies are doing for China. Or whether these companies are basically trying to protect their bottom-line, which in turn means, they will be doing all they can to talk sense to the likes of Mr Trump out of concern of their share-holders bottom line, but not on the account of carrying water for the Chinese side. This is the reality of these companies, and its best not to go on telling yourself, as if these US’s companies are doing a charitable agenda at the behest of the Chinese.

          • Suzy Dixon

            Lol sounds you’re the one doing the wishful thinking, friend. Although, KK didn’t address the possibility that NK isn’t so much a Chinese failure “to rein them in” but that the CCP doesn’t want to rein them in.
            They created the problem by supporting them.
            CCP just a spoiled kid and wants to use NK to destabilize and then gets angry when SK seeks defense haha. Typical 5 year old

          • Unelected Leader

            Dhako is a CCP apologist. He can only try to make the best of a bad situation as KremlinKryptonite outlined well indeed

          • KremlinKryptonite

            The autocratic regime in Beijing is, unfortunately for the common folk Chinese, not even a “meritocracy” (I know, a silly concept for an unelected regime in the first place).
            If the regime was any sort of “meritocracy” with all of Xi’s bad bets going sour, his Politburo comrades would treat him like most companies would treat a demonstrably failed CEO.

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