Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Rising Giant

This post started as a comment to one ‘Anonymous’ on my recent post on Indonesia, who made the rather incredulous suggestion that the North Koreans either might be thinking about or be actually capable of intervening militarily in Southeast Asia, my neck of the globe. Excuse me, what did you say? The Norks are in no condition to be contemplating any major military adventures past their own borders, let alone here in SE Asia!

Quite simply, the Norks are short of everything to run a proper war--fuel, ammo, spare parts and even food for their soldiers. Training and leadership for their forces is likely as ossified and ineffective as the rest of their ruling regime. The DPRK military is only capable of getting a lot of people near (or in) their gulag criminal state killed.

The Norks know this and have admitted as much, by pouring so much of their meager resources into their nukes program. It's tacit admission to the whole world that Nork’s conventional forces—be it tanks, artillery, etc—just don’t cut it anymore. Lil’ Kim is laser-like focused on one thing and one thing only—the survival of his regime. Nukes can do precisely that—obsolete and ineffective conventional armies don’t.

Don’t get me wrong—Lil’ Kim can and certainly is capable of causing mischief in many corners of the world. Mischief like selling counterfeit US greenbacks, narcotics, and nuke and missile technologies. All available to anyone, no questions asked, on cash terms only. Mischief yes; serious military threat, no.

So, who would have the reason and the capability to militarily intervene in SE Asia, other than the US? Japan and Australia, certainly, but their forces are relatively small, both countries have ample political reason to avoid lengthy military entanglements in the area, and furthermore, both are close allies of the US. Then there's India, but India also is falling into the US club now, as the US and India increasingly need each other.

This leaves China, the ever-rising East Asian giant. China has two powerful reasons to be tempted into a sizable SE Asia military incursion. Number one is to secure access to natural resources. SE Asia's got ‘em, and China needs all manner of resources to continue their economic and industrial development. For now, they can peacefully obtain pretty much whatever they need. But what would China do in some future crisis, if this access was threatened or cut off altogether?

The second motivating factor for potential Chinese meddling in Southeast Asia would be the treatment/oppression of the Chinese minorities that already reside there. Malaysia and Indonesia, in particular, have important, well-connected and well-monied Chinese minority populations. Both groups have been the repeated and continued targets of bigotry, oppression, second-class treatment, and occasional wide-scale murder, all at the hands of the more numerous Muslim neighbors. Anti-Chinese violence is certainly nothing new to this part of the world—it happened in 1964 (Singapore), 1965 (Indonesia), 1969 (Malaysia), and 1998 (Indonesia). In fact, the Muslim watchword seems to be, “Always blame the Jews… but if they aren’t readily at hand, go after the Chinese instead.”

Then there’s China’s arms build-up to consider. China is spending and has been spending considerable sums to upgrade its armed forces in all areas. This includes more realistic and intensive training, serious ongoing efforts to increase the professionalism of its military cadres, as well as massive programs to acquire advanced weapons. Such changes, once implemented, could allow the PRC to possess, for the first time, military forces that can operate for sustained periods at great distances outside of their own borders. Taiwan is but a hop, skip and a jump off the PRC coastline. There is another purpose, in particular, for the precipitous buildup of China’s navy… and the reasons for that lie south.

But there’s more than just better hardware and military training to consider. Chinese education and government propaganda have, for decades, consistently stressed a high degree of patriotic feeling in the PRC, and the need for the PRC to secure its rightful place in the world as a major power. And China sees Southeast Asia as falling within its rightful sphere of influence. They always have.

So, when the next wave of anti-Chinese riots sweeps through Kuala Lumpur and/or Jakarta, will China merely stand idly by, confining its activities to holding press conferences in Beijing or issuing communiqués from the UN Security Council in New York? Or, will the PRC act and act decisively?

How can we expect a ruling Communist dictatorship to act in such a time of crisis, a government that is fixated, quite like the Bismarck’s Second Reich, on securing the ‘Middle Kingdom’s’ ‘place in the sun’? Bear in mind, of course, that China has a more, shall we say, strenuous attitude on how to deal with terrorists and troublemakers in general. Just ask the Muslims in western China.

I wonder, which of these scenarios would the Javanese Islamists prefer? Would they prefer to keep seeing the ‘evil’ George Bush’s hospital ships parked in Indonesian waters, dispensing free health care to the Muslim masses? Or would they rather witness an approaching heavily armed PRC task force, loaded to the gunwales with weapons and troops, coming to the rescue of their besieged fellow Chinese?

(Read my post from earlier this year to read more about China and their not-so-friendly ways)

3 comments:

Southern(USA)whiteboy said...

Not a gripe here by any stretch, but it is not George Bush's hospital ships, they are ours. Otherwise, thanks and write on.

Anonymous said...

"anonymous"
Antijihadist, I am glad my off the cuff remark about the "Norks" and the areas Islamists helped spark this excellent piece you have written here.
I am in no way expert at all about anything South East of the English Channel!
I agree after reading your article, that North Korea is not in good shape for war, and indeed China is perhaps soley equipped for such adventures. Perhaps N. Korea may play some part in such a scenario, but you are right in saying that PRC cannot have been wasting time and resources building up it's armed forces for nothing.
Perhaps I should pity the poor Islamists their fate in that region should China indulge in a little "intervention."
I wonder how the ramifications will affect allies such as Australia and Japan. In the long run, perhaps Taiwan is inevitably going to "return to the fold."

What will be the major issue, is perhaps how America will respond.
It will be the Navy's job presumably, at such a great distance. I cannot see US boots on those faraway soils once more, considering the commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
China is indeed a not so sleepy giant, but with the upcoming PR of the Beijing Olympics, it seems they may not be planning incursions anytime soon. Theirs is perhaps the birthplace of the "long-game."

Should Muslim, anti-Chinese troubles stimulate a response, again, how will America stand with that "bowl of f- cherries!?"
Will US support it's economic friend and stand clear?
Or will America plead the case of it's "friends" of Malaysia or Singapore with their burgeoning Muslim populations?
Perhaps it will all depend on whose slippers are on the Oval-Office rugs by then.
One spin-off maybe that any conflict will draw a swathe of freshjihadist away to the region to their brothers
sides in some leech infested jungle swamps.
This would not be so bad for US and Europe, perhaps.

A very thought provoking excellent article.

Anonymous said...

great read-thankyou