China’s Ambitions

History repeats itself

In the early-19th century, America’s fifth president, James Monroe, established the first foreign policy of the U.S. government. He declared that America was no longer going to tolerate the intrusion of European powers in the affairs of the Western Hemisphere (i.e., both North and South America). This is known as the Monroe Doctrine.

That’s how the Chinese now feel.

East Asia is ours.

Regional Rivals

Admittedly it has several regional rivals–Japan, Korea, and Taiwan–but they’re all less powerful.

Japan less powerful? In terms of pure numbers, China beats Japan: GDP and population.

Militarily, Japan’s capabilities are limited to strictly defensive ones. This is the consequence of having lost in the Second World War. Japan’s post-war constitution forbids the formation of a traditional military force. Japan is only allowed to maintain a Self Defense Force (SDF), the mission of which is to protect the Japanese mainland. This is a major concession to the victor (which was the United States in World War II). Why did the U.S. want that? Because it didn’t want a feisty Japan in the future. In exchange for this major concession, the United States promised to help protect Japan.

Ironically, because of the strain America is feeling in serving as the world’s policeman, it is pushing Japan to increase its military involvement to help America.

Which goes to help prove that nations are always trying to do what’s best for their individual national interests.

And isn’t that the correct way to act? I would say so except when they commit acts that are inhumane. Genocide, for example, is a crime against humanity.

America the Generous. America the Fair.

I don’t know how you feel about the U.S. but I think that Americans are generous and have a fair way of dealing with the loser. Here’s a country that just beat another in the most humbling way. The Japanese are fierce warriors–think of bushido, ninjas, and kamikazes–but their will bent to the superior technology and rich land resources of America.

Japan started the war as Asia’s most powerful and it was devastated. America could have turned Japan into a colony but it did not.

Interesting perspective, isn’t it?

The U.S. had the atom bomb. No one else did. Europe was devastated while America was untouched. That made America’s factories the world’s factories. And what did it do with its wealth of actual currency? It gave away the equivalent of hundreds of billions of today’s dollars in hard currency. Have you ever heard of the Marshall Plan?

I read a book about General Marshall, the army man who later became the U.S. Secretary of State (currently occupied by Hillary Clinton). The plan was his idea. The plan was to give (as in outright) gifts to 16 countries totaled 13 billion. That’s 13,000,000,000 in 1950 dollars.

"Marshall Plan Recipients" "Wikipedia)" "Retired No Way"

Marshall Plan Recipients (from Wikipedia)

Thanks to this nifty website, I can tell you that $13 billion in 1950 dollars is the equivalent of $121 billion in 2011 dollars.

Bottom-line: it was American wealth that restarted the global economy.

The best defense is a good offense.

That’s an American saying but I prefer this term: active defense.

"U.S. Congress" "Retired No Way" "China's Ambitions"

This was presented to the appropriate commission of the U.S. Congress.

The next quote comes from a testimony to the commission of the U.S. Congress in charge of reviewing the status of U.S.–China relations:

There is no doubt that China is flexing its muscles throughout Asia, sometimes acting unreasonably – its guarded, and arguably inappropriate, reaction to North Korea’s sinking of the Cheonan; its demands for an apology after a Chinese fishing boat captain was arrested for ramming into two Japanese Coast Guard vessels in the East China Sea (ECS); and its declaration of the South China Sea (SCS) as a “core interest,” on par with Taiwan and Tibet. These actions, viewed in conjunction with its increasing maritime surveillance and military exercises in the SCS and ECS, have many Asian nations on edge. Rather than increasing stability throughout the region as it gains military capability, these incidents have created more strategic mistrust and led to suspicion of China’s self-proclaimed “peaceful rise.”

At the heart of anxieties about China’s future military intentions is the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) ambitious ‘Far Sea Defence’ strategy. [It] leaves little doubt that China is determined to turn its three coastal fleets into a genuine blue-water navy. [This navy is] capable of controlling the Western Pacific. [Unchecked, it will] eventually project significant maritime power into the central Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

“Western Pacific” is the region from America’s point of view. (These excerpts came from articles written for America’s decision makers.) For us here in Asia, this is not the Western Pacific; it is East Asia. The Philippines is in South East Asia.

"Retired No Way" "China's Ambition" "Chinese Monroe Doctrine" "Annual Report to Congress 2010" "U.S. Defense Department"

The Chinese Monroe Doctrine (Source: Annual Report to Congress 2010 by the U.S. Defense Department, p 23)

The Monroe Doctrine again!

[China’s] new doctrine signals a determination to break out of the so-called ‘first island chain’ – running from [Japan to Taiwan, the Philippines, Sabah, and Sarawak.]

If fully implemented, “Far Sea Defence” would allow the Chinese Navy to command not only the maritime approaches to China, but also the waters bounded by a ‘second island chain’ out to the northern Marianas and Guam, that has long been the exclusive preserve of the US Navy. Guam is also sovereign US territory.

Beijing’s strategic aim seems to be a Monroe Doctrine with Chinese characteristics, and it is acquiring the capabilities to realise this ambitious goal.

From a Chinese perspective this makes perfect strategic sense. After all, if a rising America could construct a Monroe Doctrine in the 19th century as a blunt, but effective instrument for keeping other powers out of the Western Hemisphere why should an ascendant 21st century China not seek a comparable outcome in the Western Pacific? The problem is that the PLA’s determination to push the US Navy as far from China’s shores as possible threatens to destabilize the regional balance of power and escalate tensions with Japan, as well as the United States.

Further Reading

I recommend this informative article about the state of the world after the Second World War and what was done about it.

The influential Council on Foreign Relations has the ear of Washington. Here’s an article about China’s Bold New Plan for Economic Domination.


2 responses to “China’s Ambitions

  1. 1. Let’s take six years backwards:
    2. The China you perceive @ the moment is a fruit of the engagement” policy adopted in DC long time ago?
    3. Containment or engagement: either or, China’s rising power is inevitable.
    4. Thanks to Uncle Sam, China’s joining the world stage un-reluctantly now should be taken complimentarily.. She’s just yawning.


  2. Uncle Sam is the “yin” of China’s “yang”


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