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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 22-Sep-2018
22-Sep-18 World View -- China threatens multiple Western nations militarily over South China Sea

Web Log - September, 2018

22-Sep-18 World View -- China threatens multiple Western nations militarily over South China Sea

China's claims to the South China Sea are amazingly vacuous

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

China threatens multiple Western nations militarily over South China Sea

Radar towers, hangars and five-story buildings can be seen on Fiery Cross Reef from an onboard camera on a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane. (NY Times)
Radar towers, hangars and five-story buildings can be seen on Fiery Cross Reef from an onboard camera on a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon reconnaissance plane. (NY Times)

Two weeks ago, the HMS Albion, a British Royal Navy flagship amphibious assault ship, was traveling through the South China Sea, en route from Tokyo to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in Vietnam. On August 31, the ship exercised its "freedom of navigation" rights as it passed near the Paracel Islands. The Paracel Islands have been ruled by the courts to be in international waters, but China has used military force to annex them, in clear violation of international law. China immediately launched a military challenge in the form of a frigate and two helicopters, although both sides remained calm.

However, the Albion's freedom of navigation operation continues to trigger hysterical, irrational threats by the Chinese. In the aftermath of the incident, China made the usual threats, and these statements have been growing more hysterical and threatening as time goes on.

China's embassy in London issued this statement:

"The [Paracel Islands are] an inherent part of the Chinese territory. In accordance with the Law of the People's Republic of China on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, the Chinese government promulgated the baseline of the territorial sea of the [Paracel Islands] in May, 1996. The relevant behavior of the British warship violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed upon China's sovereignty. China is firmly opposed to this. We have lodged stern representations with the British side and expressed our strong dissatisfaction.

The Chinese side strongly urges Britain to stop this kind of provocation lest it should undermine the overall picture of bilateral ties as well as regional peace and stability. China will continue to take all necessary measures to safeguard its sovereignty and security."

The claim that the Paracel Islands are an inherent part of Chinese territory is really laughable, as I'll explain below. China has NO sovereignty there.

China's Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming has said that the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea has never been a problem, warning that no one should underestimate China's determination to uphold "peace and stability" in the region:

"Yet to everyone’s confusion, some big countries outside the region did not seem to appreciate the peace and tranquility in the South China Sea. They sent warships and aircraft all the way to the South China Sea to create trouble. ...

This was a serious infringement [of China's sovereignty]. It threatened China's security and put regional peace and stability in jeopardy.

"Freedom of navigation is not a license to do whatever one wishes. ...

"Such 'freedom' must be stopped. Otherwise the South China Sea will never be tranquil."

This is a military threat. The ambassador claims that it's about warships making trouble, but it's also about fishing boats and oil. China has repeatedly used military force to prevent Vietnam and the Philippines from fishing in international waters, and as we recently reported, China threatened war with the Philippines if the latter drills for oil in its own territorial waters.

In the last five years, islands near the Philippines have turned into Chinese military bases, bristling with radar domes, shelters for missiles, and warplane runways.

In 2015, Xi stood in the Rose Garden at the White House and promised, "there is no intention to militarize" the South China Sea, which is exactly what happened. Xi's lie is standard Chinese policy, as advised by 1980s Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping: "Observe calmly; secure our position; cope with affairs calmly; hide our capacities and bide our time; be good at maintaining a low profile; and never claim leadership."

But since 2015, China has completely abandoned Deng's advice, and is now openly militaristic and threatening, and preparing to launch a war.

According to a Pentagon assessment, China's military bases in the Spratly Islands will be completed by the end of the year, and presumably ready for full-scale war. The only question is what will China do next -- take immediate military action, or else start building military bases in Scarborough, in Philippines territorial waters, an act of war in itself.

In May, U.S. Indo-Pacific commander Adm. Philip Davidson said, "In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States."

China does not recognize international law except when it favors China. China believes that its own law supersedes international law. China has been pursuing the Nazi Lebensraum objective, at least since the time of Chiang Kai-shek after World War II. The Chinese Communist Party view of Han Racial Superiority is no different than the Nazi view of the Aryan Master Race.

The "freedom of navigation operations" (FONOPs) are being conducted by the US, Britain, Australian, and Japan. There's a temptation just to abandon them, and just let China have its way. But then China would just declare victory, and make further demands, prohibiting any other country's vessels of any kind to pass through the South China Sea without explicit permission of the Chinese.

So the Chinese make their hysterical statements and military threats to "prove" their claims. The FONOPs are necessary to refute China's hysterical statements and military threats. This is exactly the kind of tit-for-tat escalation that leads to war during a generational Crisis era.

The same thing is happening with trade policy between the US and China. Neither the Trump administration nor Xi Jinping is going to back down. Perhaps some intermediary can work for a truce of some kind, but it's more likely that the tit-for-tat trade escalations will also continue.

As I've written in the past, Generational Dynamics predicts that we're headed for full-scale war with China with 100% certainty, and Donald Trump is well aware of this. Many of his policies, which are totally inscrutable and incomprehensible to the media, make perfect sense when you realize that they're intended to try to prevent a world war. Preventing a world war is impossible, but I'm not going to criticize Trump for trying. Chinese Embassy in UK and Xinhua and NY Times and South China Morning Post

China's claims to the South China Sea are amazingly vacuous

As we all know, in 2016 the Philippines won a historic case in the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague thoroughly humiliating China by ruling that all of China's activities in the South China Sea are illegal and in violation of international law.

The Chinese ambassador's statement quoted above says that "the British warship violated Chinese law and relevant international law and infringed upon China's sovereignty." China has no sovereignty in the South China Sea. China's use of the phrase "relevant international law" is laughable, since China believes itself superiod to international law.

In recent weeks, I've been doing my own research on China's claims to the South China Sea.

First, let's address the name, "South China Sea." This does not mean that China owns it, any more than India owns the Indian Ocean. The name South China Sea was invented by Westerners, around 1900. Prior to that, different countries used various names, including Cham sea, Luzon sea, Clove sea, South sea, East sea, and West Philippine sea. According to historian Philip Bowring:

"Do not imagine that the term “South China Sea” ever implied Chinese ownership. It is a Western construction that dates to about 1900. Previously, European maps referred to it as the China Sea, and before that as part of the Indian Sea. When the Portuguese arrived there in the early sixteenth century they called it the Cham Sea, after the maritime kingdom of coastal Vietnam. Other names at various times include Luzon Sea and (by early Arab traders) the Clove Sea. To China it has long been the South Sea and to Vietnamese the East Sea. The Philippines now refers to it as the West Philippine Sea.

“Malay seas” is another term that has been applied to it and its immediate neighbors, the Java, Sulu, and Banda seas. The South China Sea itself is predominantly a Malay sea, as defined by the culture and language group of the majority of people living along its shores. Until European imperialism from the sixteenth century onward gradually snuffed out these trade-based kingdoms and sultanates, they were the region’s principal traders."

The Chinese claim sovereignty going all the way to the Han Dynasty in the 2nd century BC. Once again, this is laughable.

Starting from the beginning of the first millennium BC, there were Malay-Polynesian people settling in all the Pacific islands from Madagascar to Taiwan, conducting trade. This continued through most of the 1st and 2nd millennium AD.

Ironically, China had no interest in these islands throughout this period, and in fact discouraged its own traders from venturing out, preferring to wait for foreign traders to come to China.

China was busy looking westward, conquering Central Asian lands, including the Tibetans and the Uighur Turks. Today, these ethnic groups the ones that China is treating as violently as possible. It's even now emerging that China has locked up a million Uighurs in reeducation camps, and has separated Uighur children from their parents and locked them up in indoctrination camps.

This is standard Chinese practice. During Mao's Great Leap Forward, 500 million peasants were taken out of their homes and put into communes, with children, wives and husbands all living separately. Husbands and wives were allowed to be alone only at certain times of the month and only for brief periods. All workers took part in ideological training sessions. The purpose was to turn the population into a giant machine, proving that Communism was better than anything else. It was a disaster, resulting in tens of millions of deaths. Now the Chinese are using the same techniques on the Uighurs, though with different objectives, but just as likely to end in disaster.

Significantly, China's historical conquests were all to the west, but never to the east. China tried to conquer Korea, but failed. China apparently made no attempt to conquer the Philippines the way they conquered the Uighurs. If they had, then the Chinese claim to the South China Sea might actually have some validity.

So the historical evidence indicates that China wanted absolutely nothing to do with the South China Sea until recently. It was only after WW II that they decided that they had gotten enough Lebensraum to the west, and now wanted Lebensraum to the east. They backed up their claims by dredging up old maps and documents that were supposedly created centuries ago, but those are meaningless. If having a map of something means you own it, then the British Geological Survey owns the whole world. National Geographic (18-Jun-2014) and New York Review of Books (13-Sep-2017) and Ancient History Encyclopedia

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