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The South China Sea: What’s Really at Issue

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The South China Sea is basically China’s export waterway to Africa and to Europe (among other markets), but in order for China’s enemy (aspiring conqueror), America, to harm and weaken China maximally, and to use the United Nations assisting in that aggression, America and its allies have cast this vital trade-waterway as being instead basically just an area to be exploited for oil and gas, and minerals, and fishing. The American Government’s aggression — its effort to strangulate China’s international commerce — thus becomes ignored by the U.N., which is consequently handling the entire issue under its law which pertains to a nation’s (China’s) rights to exploit the natural resources of and under a given waterway. 

The international legal issue, which is being applied, is therefore the 1982 U.N. Convention on Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). This treaty (law) has been ratified, or at least signed, by all countries except the United States, whose hold-out for 12 years had blocked the Convention even from coming into effect. Then, finally (when Guyana, on 16 November 1993, did, after so much delay, become the requisite 60th country to ratify the Convention, so as to bring it into actual effect), the U.S., on 29 July 1994, went through the mere formality of signing the Agreement, because Part XI of the Convention (“to authorize seabed exploration and mining and collect and distribute the seabed mining royalty”) had, by this time, become modified, to the satisfaction of Exxon and other U.S. oil-and-gas corporations, so that U.S. President Bill Clinton had UNCLOS signed by the U.S. — but not sufficiently satisfied to have it ratified by the U.S., which nation therefore still remains the lone holdout amongst the 179 U.N. member nations that had been invited to join it. (Some countries are entirely landlocked.) So, ironically, the lone holdout-nation, U.S., is now militarily threatening China (one of the Convention’s actual member-nations), for its allegedly violating that Convention, in regard to what is, in fact, China’s essential exportation (and importation) waterway, even more important to China than its being a potential Chinese natural-resource asset.

Furthermore, China has long wanted to reduce much of its need to ship through the South China Sea, by means of building what for China would be equivalent to what the Panama Canal is for the U.S., but this new canal would be located in Thailand, which America conquered in its 1948 coup — the CIA’s first. If built, this Thai Canal would significantly reduce China’s costs of importing oil from Iran and Arabia, as well as its costs of exporting goods to India, and to Europe and Africa. Therefore, the U.S. regime is willing to pay whatever the cost might be in order to bribe Thai leaders to continue saying no to that canal-proposal. (But, will China ultimately outbid America? There is a tug-of-war in Thailand about whether to participate in China’s proposal.)

The U.S. thus blocks China, both via the UNCLOS, and via China’s main potential method of avoiding its need to rely so heavily upon its usage of the South China Sea — the Thai Canal.

This is consequently a good example of how the imperialistic U.S. Government, which is uniquely hostile toward the United Nations, nonetheless exploits the U.N., and yet still receives deferential treatment from it — so that the U.S. can actually use the U.N. as a tool to advance its own imperialistic objectives of conquering yet more territory, additional vassal-nations or ‘allies’. 

The U.N. is, furthermore, exceptionally proud of its achievement in having finally passed UNCLOS into international law. As it says, “‘Possibly the most significant legal instrument of this century’ is how the United Nations Secretary-General described the treaty after its signing.”

None of this can be understood outside the context of international law itself, which is tragically corrupt, as a result of the following history, the backstory here:

Though the U.N. was invented and even named by America’s President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), he died just before it started, and his successor Harry S. Truman shaped it by modifying FDR’s plan, so that the U.N. would gradually fail, and, instead, the U.S. Government would itself emerge effectively as being the global government over all other governments — America’s Government would become a global dictatorship over nations, instead of the U.N. coming into existence as the global democratic republic of nations (FDR’s U.N.) that FDR had aimed for it to be, controlling international relations after World War II, in such a manner as to prevent a WW III. 

We thus live in Truman’s post-WW-II world, definitely not in FDR’s.

After World War II (in which the U.S. and UK were allied with the U.S.S.R. against the fascist powers that had invaded countries which had not even been threatening them), America soon launched a string of coups and invasions — overthrowing and replacing governments that hadn’t even posed any threat, at all, to America’s national security — and the world thereby became increasingly accustomed to the fact that America’s military and CIA are, in fact, the world’s new invading military force, replacing Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and the Emperor’s Japan, in that capacity, as international dictators. (That’s something which FDR had been planning to prevent any nation from being.) The first four U.S. coups were against Thailand in 1948, Syria in 1949, Iran in 1953, and Guatemala in 1954; and each American coup replaced a moderate leader with a brutal fascist regime, crushing democracy there. (The U.S. takeover in Syria lasted only a few years.) America also engaged in numerous outright military invasions, many of them using hired proxy forces (U.S.-funded mercenaries), instead of using U.S. soldiers, as being the U.S. regime’s “boots on the ground,” to do the actual killing and dying. America thereby became the invading country throughout the world, which is what the fascist powers had been in World War II. 

The post-WW-II America thus emerged as standing above international law, ever since the 1945 end of WW II. In effect, America’s Government has internationally become the world’s government — by force of arms. Other countries are subject to international law, but the U.S. is not. The U.S. has emerged as the international empire, taking over, and dominating, in more and more countries, until it now openly demands compliance from all countries, and even threatens Iraq’s Government, that if Iraq tries to expel the U.S. occupying forces, the U.S. will permanently destroy Iraq

America’s imperialist fascism has become so bold, for so long, so that news-media don’t even report it. If one lays a WW II ideological template over the world’s nations today, then today’s U.S. and its allies are much more fitting the mold and form of the Axis powers, than of the Allied powers; but, this time, instead of there being Germany and its allies as the imperialistic fascists, we today have America and its allies, as constituting the imperialistic fascist nations. America assumed this role gradually, first as that role was ‘justified’ supposedly as being an ideological contest between democracy versus communism (which, on the U.S. side, was merely an excuse, not an authentic explanation); but, then, increasingly, without any such ideological excuse, as being, simply, America’s alleged ‘superiority’ (such as the recent U.S. President, Barack Obama, repeatedly asserted, that “The United States is and remains the one indispensable nation,” which means that every other nation is “dispensable”; only America is not). It is now as flagrant with America as it had been with Hitler’s Germany (“Deutschland über alles,” etc.). The gloves have finally been taken off, by today’s U.S. imperialist fascist regime. The U.S. even has the world’s highest percentage of its own population being in prisons, a higher imprisonment-rate than that of any other country. This is very appropriate for the world’s most totalitarian country. So, the dictatorship isn’t only international — it is even intranational, inside the U.S. And it very much is in control over the nation’s news media. It’s a two-Party dictatorship.

When U.S. President FDR died as WW II was ending, his dream for the future was that America and its allies in WW II would create a democratic super-nation controlled by all nations, a United Nations that would have the military force throughout the world to enforce international laws, which would be made democratically by the U.N., through its Security Council and General Assembly. But, nowadays, instead, the U.S. and its allies are free to invade anywhere they wish, and — unlike what happened to the fascist leaders during WW II — the U.S.-and-allied leaders get away with it, and they aren’t even charged by the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court. They stand above international law: precisely the sort of situation that FDR had aimed to prohibit.

For example, one of America’s allies — and thus immune to international  law — is Israel; and, on September 3rd, the international news site South Front headlined “Israeli Forces Rain Down Missiles on Syria”, and reported that:

The Israeli Air Force conducted a second round of missiles strikes on Syria in less than a week.

Late on September 2, Israeli warplanes launched missiles at the T4 airport in the province of Homs. According to Syria’s state media, the strikes were conducted from the direction of the US-controlled zone of al-Tanf on the Syrian-Iraqi border. Syrian pro-government sources claimed that a large part of the missiles was intercepted. …

The most recent previous Israeli strike on Syria took place on August 31 targeting the countryside of Damascus city and the province of Daraa.

Syria does not invade Israel, but Israel routinely invades Syria, and long has done so — and yet Israel’s leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, is not being strung up and executed by an international criminal court, like the leaders of Germany and Japan were supposed to have been, after WW II. That Judgment at Nuremberg, and similar trials against some of Japan’s leaders, were actually only victors’ ‘justice’ against some of Germany’s and Japan’s leaders, but (at the time) the victorious Allies claimed it to be the start of international justice, and to be the enforcement of international law — even though the trials were held only against Germany’s and Japan’s leaders, but not also against Italy’s. (Italy had signed with the Allies the Armistice of Cassabile surrendering on 8 September 1943, and this was part of that deal — Italy’s Government wasn’t quite as horrific as the other two, which held out till the bitter end.) These trials were prosecuting against “aggressive war”: the charge was that the imperialistic fascists had invaded countries that hadn’t invaded them — exactly what the U.S. and its allies constantly and now routinely do, after WW II (overthrowing and replacing governments that had not even so much as threatened the U.S. and its allies). 

The U.S. and its allies are today’s imperialistic fascists, and the U.N. can do nothing against them. The U.N. can do nothing against the leaders of America and its allies for doing what had been done by the leaders of Germany and Japan during WW II. 

Hitler’s and Hirohito’s spirits thus now rule in the self-styled (but now only formally) ‘democratic’ countries, whose rulers reign with far nicer rhetoric — far more hypocrisy — than their 1930s fascist predecessors had done. And the U.N. is dead, because it became created by Harry S. Truman, instead of by FDR.

Consequently, let’s consider, in more depth here, the example of China:

China is a communist country, but its communism is drastically changed from the time when Mao Tse Tung founded it, and its Marxism is unrecognizable, no longer a “dictatorship by the proletariat,” but instead one-Party rule by a Party that anyone, of any economic class, is invited to join, and which is widely considered by the Chinese people to be a “democracy.” (A far larger percentage of Chinese consider their Government to be a “democracy” than the percentage of Americans who consider America’s Government to be a “democracy.” Chinese don’t consider the number of political parties to be any indication of whether the nation is a democracy as opposed to a dictatorship. They are correct in that. In fact: America’s own Founders had aimed to be creating a nation which would have no parties at all.)

FDR made a clear distinction between a national democracy and an international democracy. He believed that international relations should be an international democracy of independent nations that deal with each other on a cooperative instead of coercive basis, and that international laws should govern this, coming from and being enforced by the United Nations. By contrast, national democracy was to be a choice that only the people within a given nation should determine, and the U.N. should have no relevance to, or control over, that. “Human rights” are individuals’ rights, and are an internal matter within each nation, whereas the rights of nations are very different, and are the purview exclusively of the U.N., as FDR was planning it. This was how he planned for there to be a post-WW-II world which would have no World War III.

By contrast, today’s U.S. regime claims, for example, the authority to dictate what countries should control which international waterways. This is clearly infringing on the U.N.’s area of authority; and, so, Truman’s U.N. has no control over the matter, though it does have vague laws which pertain to it. Today’s U.N.’s laws ignore one cardinal position — a cardinal geostrategic principle, the Westphalian principle — that FDR and the Soviet Union’s dictator, Joseph Stalin, agreed upon and which Winston Churchill opposed: the view that each of the major world powers should be allowed to intervene in the internal affairs of a foreign nation only if that foreign nation is on its borders or at least nearby (which was undefined). This was the Westphalian system, but enhanced so as to be explicitly anti-imperialistic, because both FDR and Stalin believed that both World Wars had resulted from imperialism. Both leaders rejected imperialism but accepted that there exists a distinction between major and minor powers, such that the nearby surrounds of a major power need to be entirely nations that are allied with that major power, or, at least not hostile toward it — not allied with any major power that is hostile toward itself. In other words: both men rejected Churchill’s demand that empires be allowed, which could extend beyond a major world power’s own “neighborhood.” Churchill wanted to continue the British Empire. Truman accepted Churchill’s view, and rejected the view of both FDR and Stalin. Consequently, Truman and Churchill agreed together to move forward toward an all-encompassing U.S.-UK Empire. (Though, nominally, the Westphalian principle had already become a part of the U.N.’s subsequent Charter — because of FDR — as being Chapter 1, Article 2, Paragraph 7, it was ignored from the outset, and the U.N. organization itself became set up so as to hide the entire Charter from the public. The numerous deficiencies in the Charter — such as its failure to include any clause describing a process by which the Charter could be amended — thus have likewise been hidden from the public, and not debated, nor discussed; and, thereby, the U.S. and UK have been able to have their way: the system for future global dictatorship was thus born.)

Consequently, geostrategic issues were prohibited by the U.S. regime from being subjects of international law. Though international law allowed vague references to “aggressive war,” simply because FDR’s U.S. had already established the system to pursue and hang German and Japanese leaders for their having done that, the concept of “aggression” became smudged in international law, instead of defined; and, so, aggression is practically absent as a topic of international law as it currently exists. This is how the South China Sea issue came to be treated only as being an issue of natural-resource rights. The U.N.’s Charter is essentially irrelevant to what is the most important. (Even its Westphalian clause — which is only the original, weaker, empire-accepting, form of Westphalianism — is irrelevant, since it’s ignored.)

China’s ability to ship its products westward via the South China Sea is crucial to China’s economy. Consequently, the imperialist fascist regime and its allies are trying to reduce that ability. Because this is Truman’s, instead of FDR’s, post-WW-II world, the existing relevant international laws lack sufficient clarity, and the U.S. and its allies can, under existing law, gradually choke-off China’s exports.

Katherine Morton’s 20 July 2016 article, “China’s ambition in the South China Sea”, in the journal International Affairs, argues that China’s ambition in the South China Sea is primarily driven by China’s thousands-of-years-old commercial policy, of being a maritime nation, a nation whose economy is based upon international trade. This is not imperialistic, but it instead concerns international rights that every nation ought to have. (Until 1912, China was ruled by imperialistic Emperors, but afterwards it was no longer imperialistic and has instead been defending itself against imperialistic powers.) Morton argues that China’s objective is not any grand design to achieve maritime hegemony — such as the U.S. regime has, and such as England, Holland, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Germany, and Japan, previously had done. It’s not imperial rule over countries that aren’t in their own neighborhood. It’s not conquest; it is instead self-defense. America and its allies do the coups, invasions, and international economic sanctions (economic blockades, even), but China does not. That, basically, is Morton’s argument (though she doesn’t put it in those clear terms). She says that China’s “attention is primarily focused upon demonstrating political resolve to defend China’s maritime periphery. Yet conclusive evidence that the Chinese leadership is intent upon dominating the South China Sea for the broader purpose of building a Sino‐centric maritime order in east Asia is difficult to find.” (The obtuseness — if not self-contradictoriness — of her writing might be due to her desire not to offend the U.S. regime’s own imperialistic sensibilities. Such a style is common amongst international-affairs scholars in the U.S.-and-allied world.)

However, the U.S. regime claims that China, instead of America, is the imperialistic power. The U.S. regime, as usual, claims to have the international right to enforce its will in international affairs anywhere on the planet. Sometimes, today’s U.N.-based international laws are in favor of outcomes that the U.S. regime wants. Thus, we have the matter of the South China Sea, where the U.N. body, UNCLOS, ruled on 12 July 2016 that the only relevant question is which nation is the nearest to a given part of a waterway (so as to have the right to explore and exploit there). The international laws by today’s U.N. ignore geostrategic issues, such as both FDR and Stalin wanted to include in them, but Churchill and Truman wanted international laws to ignore such matters so that UK and now U.S. could jointly pursue world-conquest. Since the UNCLOS ruling in 2016 opposed China’s claims, by ignoring its major-power concerns about its self-defense, the U.S., under the hyper-aggressive ruler, Donald Trump, recently came out publicly committed to enforcing that 2016 ruling by the U.N. body. On September 1st, Reuters headlined “Special Report: Pentagon’s latest salvo against China’s growing might — Cold War bombers”, and reported that:

On July 21, two U.S Air Force B-1B bombers took off from Guam and headed west over the Pacific Ocean to the hotly contested South China Sea. The sleek jets made a low-level pass over the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and its escorting fleet, which was exercising nearby in the Philippines Sea, according to images released by the U.S. military. The operation was part of the Trump administration’s intensifying challenge to China’s ruling Communist Party and its sweeping territorial claims over one of the world’s most important strategic waterways. While senior Trump officials launch diplomatic and rhetorical broadsides at Beijing, the U.S. Defense Department is turning to the firepower of its heavily armed, long-range bombers as it seeks to counter Beijing’s bid to control the seas off the Chinese coast. …

The U.S. Army also intends to spread forces through the first island chain and other outposts in the Western Pacific. It is planning a series of major exercises this year and next where troops would deploy to islands in the region, according to senior commanders and top Pentagon officials.

The U.S. regime is using, as its excuse, its backing the territorial claims of what it claims to be its ‘allies’ against China — such as Vietnam. Meanwhile, the regime is applying diplomacy and other means, in order to encourage those ‘allies’ to insist upon, and not to compromise or weaken, those claims. Vietnam quickly responded to America’s active backing, by “Vietnam Threatens China with Litigation over the South China Sea”.

What’s at issue there is underwater oil-and-gas exploration-and-development rights of the various nations’ corporations. If China truly does not place its corporations’ commercial interests above the Chinese nation’s self-defense interests, then it will sacrifice the former for the latter, and it will cede those other nations’ rights to exploit that oil and gas, and will settle with its neighbors, for an agreement by all of America’s ‘allies’ to support and endorse China’s rights to traverse unimpeded through those waterways.

If the U.S. regime then would continue its heavy military fortifications surrounding China, then China would (in accord with its agreements that it will have reached with Vietnam and those other neighboring nations) be receiving, from those nations’ endorsements of China’s rights in that regard (for China’s self-defense), and from those nations’ public requests for U.S. forces to depart from their region, support for China’s shipping rights, which would be at least as valuable to China as whatever the natural resources there are worth.

In regards to the 12 July 2016 ruling by UNCLOS, it concerned specifically the case between China and the Philippines, and it presented the Philippines’ challenging China’s claims, which claims were/are based on arguments such as (regarding “Scarborough Shoal”) that “Since the Yuan Dynasty, the Chinese people have never stopped developing and exploiting Huangyan Island and its surrounding waters and the Chinese government has exercised effective management and jurisdiction over their activities all these years.” The ruling replied to that assertion by saying, “The Tribunal’s conclusions with respect to” that area are “independent of the question of sovereignty.” But, whatever the ruling was based upon, what’s relevant here is that the U.S. Government has no right to be sending its warships and other weapons into the South China Sea in order to ‘enforce’ UNCLOS’s ruling. And whatever China’s claims are or were in this matter, they cover(ed) a very large area, which encompasses almost all of the South China Sea — it encompasses the area that’s within the “nine-dash line”, which is shown here in green. Although UNCLOS (actually the U.N.-authorized body that administers it, the International Seabed Authority) is legitimately involved in this matter; the U.S. Government is the opposite: it is instead an international-law violator and has no right to be involved, at all, and is illegally throwing its weight around where it doesn’t belong and should be expelled — and would be expelled if this were FDR’s U.N., instead of Truman’s U.N.

Another way that Truman’s U.N. helps the U.S. regime geostrategically against China is the issue of Hong Kong — an internal Chinese matter, which wouldn’t even be a U.N. concern if the U.N. had been created instead by the U.N.’s inventor, FDR. (Even the original, weaker, form of the Westphalian principle — the version that’s in the U.N.’s Charter — would prohibit outside involvement in this matter.) As Reuters headlined on September 3rd, “U.N. experts decry Hong Kong security law in open letter to China”. Any U.N. that gets involved in any nation’s internal affairs, and in such things as ‘human rights’, should be simply dissolved, because it is advancing imperialism, instead of preventing it.

Basically, today’s U.N. is just a talking-forum, a PR vehicle for its member-nations; but, actually, at the deepest level, it’s a propaganda-agency for imperialism. That’s what it was designed for. 

If China can win the support of its neighbors in the region to kick America out, then the sacrifice of such assets as oil and gas there would be a relatively inconsequential price for China to pay. Unfortunately, today’s U.N. must be eliminated and replaced by one that builds upon FDR’s intentions, because today’s U.N. — Truman’s U.N. — is exactly the opposite.

America’s having its weaponry and forces on and near China’s borders is even worse than when in 1962 the Soviet Union placed its forces in Cuba — and nearly precipitated WW III. America has no right to be there. And today’s U.N. has no justification to continue its existence — a replacement of it is direly needed.

Details of the existing U.N.’s deficiency in the present situation will here be summarily stated: UNCLOS asserts: “Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles.” That’s the outermost limit of any coastal nation’s “sovereignty.” Furthermore: “Non-compliance by warships with the laws and regulations of the coastal State. If any warship does not comply with the laws and regulations of the coastal State concerning passage through the territorial sea and disregards any request for compliance therewith which is made to it, the coastal State may require it to leave the territorial sea immediately.” But Truman’s U.N. possesses no military force of its own and therefore that “coastal State” is provided no protection by today’s U.N. Furthermore: UNCLOS even allows an enemy nation’s naval vessels into that 12-mile limit, but “submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag.” There is no limit upon how near the shore an enemy’s warships are allowed to come. Yet the U.S. violates UNCLOS routinely. What military force exists against its doing so? What legal tribunal exists that covers this? Furthermore: The agreement by FDR and Stalin, that any major world power needs to have some sort of right to veto or block any nearby nation from coordinating with any other major power that is hostile toward that given major world power, is entirely absent from the existing U.N. — existing international law. Consequently, for example: The U.S., under JFK in 1962, was acting in violation of the subsequent 1982 UNCLOS, when he ordered the Soviet military to depart from Cuba — that was beyond the 12-mile limit. Existing international law has to be replaced. It ignores essential geostrategic concerns to prohibit imperialism and to minimize any likelihood of a WW III. It needs to be replaced.

And that’s not the only reason why the current system of international laws needs to be replaced. The existing international dictatorship, which is the U.S. regime, is even more conservative than is Truman’s U.N. For example: As of October 2019, there are 37 “Treaties Pending in the Senate” (the U.S. Senate). These U.N.-backed treaties all are of a progressive nature, asserting the rights of workers and obligations of employers, etc.; and, in fact, the first three of these treaties deal specifically with workers’ rights. The earliest of them, activated in 1949, is the “International Labor Organization Convention No. 87 Concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, adopted by the International Labor Conference at its 31st Session held at San Francisco, June 17 – July 10, 1948 (Treaty Doc.: Ex. S, 81st Cong., 1st Sess.); submitted to Senate August 27, 1949.” President Truman could not get Republicans to back it, because they opposed workers’ rights. They still do, and the Treaty still isn’t joined by the U.S. regime. Indeed, as Roncevert Ganan Almond noted, in his 24 May 2017 article in support of “U.S. Ratification of the Law of the Sea Convention”, “Even treaties that flow from American leadership, in areas like protecting rights for persons with disabilities, are rejected.” They’re always being rejected by Senate Republicans. (Truman, of course, was a Democrat; and, on most issues, the leadership of that Party is less conservative than is the leadership of the Republican Party.) Thus, though Truman’s U.N. is conservative, it isn’t as conservative as is the U.S. regime itself, which is even more conservative than Truman himself was. Physically, Hitler and Hirohito lost WW II; but, spiritually, they turned out to have won it. The reason is that FDR tragically died too early.

Author’s note: first  posted at Strategic Culture

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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East Asia

Who would bell the China cat?

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If the G-7 and NATO china-bashing statements are any guide, the world is in for another long interregnum of the Cold War (since demise of the Soviet Union). The G-7 leaders called upon China to “respect human rights in its Xinjiang region” and “allow Hong Kong a high degree of autonomy” and “refrain from any unilateral action that could destabilize the East and South China Seas”, besides maintaining “peace and stability across the Taiwan Straits”.

China’s tit-for-tat response

The Chinese mission to the European Union called upon the NATO not to exaggerate the “China threat theory”

Bitter truths

Amid the pandemic, still raging, the world is weary of resuscitating Cold War era entente. Even the G-7 members, Canada and the UK appear to be lukewarm in supporting the US wish to plunge the world into another Cold War. Even the American mothers themselves are in no mood to welcome more coffins in future wars. Importance of the G-7 has been whittled down by G-20. 

Presumptions about the China’s cataclysmic rise are unfounded. Still, China is nowhere the US gross National Product. China’s military budget is still the second largest after the US. It is still less than a third of Washington’s budget to be increased by 6.8 per cent in 2021.

India’s role

India claims to be a natural ally of the G-7 in terms of democratic “values”. But the US based Freedom House has rated India “partly free because of its dismal record in persecution of minorities. Weakened by electoral setbacks in West Bengal, the Modi government has given a free hand to religious extremists. For instance, two bigots, Suraj Pal Amu and Narsinghanand Saraswati have been making blasphemous statements against Islam at press conferences and public gatherings.

India’s main problem

Modi government’s mismanagement resulted in shortage of vaccine and retroviral drugs. The healthcare system collapsed under the mounting burden of fatalities.  

Media and research institutions are skeptical of the accuracy of the death toll reported by Indian government.

The New York Times dated June 13, 2021 reported (Tracking Corona virus in India: Latest Map and case Count) “The official COVID-19 figures in India grossly under-estimate the true scale of the pandemic in the country”. The Frontline dated June 4, 2021 reported “What is clear in all these desperate attempts is the reality that the official numbers have utterly lost their credibility in the face of the biggest human disaster in independent India (V. Sridhar, India’s gigantic death toll due to COVID-19 is  thrice  the official numbers”, The frontline, June 4, 2021). It adds “More than 6.5 lakh Indians, not the 2.25 lakh reported officially are estimated to have died so far and at best a million more are expected to die by September 2021. The Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that actual Indian casualties may be 0.654 million (6.54 lakh), not the official count of 0.221 million (2.21 lakh as on May 6 when the report was released. That is a whopping three times the official numbers, an indicator of the extent of under-reporting”.

Epidemiologist Dr. Feigl-ding told India Today TV on April, 16, 2021 that “actual number of COVID-19 cases in India can be five or six times higher than the tally right now” (“Actual COVID-19 cases in India may be 5 to 10 times higher, says epidemiologist. India Today TV April 16, 2021).

Concluding remarks

India’s animosity against China is actuated by expediency. There is no chance of a full-blown war between China and India as the two countries have agreed not to use firepower in border skirmishes, if any. Modi himself told the All-party conference that not an inch of Indian territory has been ceded to China. In May this year, the Army Chief General M M. Naravane noted in an interview: “There has been no transgression of any kind and the process of talks is continuing.”

It is not China but the Quad that is disturbing unrest in China’s waters.

History tells the USA can sacrifice interests of its allies at the altar of self interest. India sank billions of dollars in developing the Chabahar Port. But, India had to abandon it as the US has imposed sanctions on Iran.

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Xinjiang? A Minority Haven Or Hell

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While the G7 meets under the shadow of Covid 19 and the leaders of the most prosperous nations on earth are focused on rebuilding their economies, a bloodless pogrom is being inflicted on a group of people on the other side of the world.

In this new era, killing people is wasteful and could bring the economic wrath of the rest of the world.  No, it is better to brainwash them, to re-educate them, to destroy their culture, to force them to mold themselves into the alien beings who have invaded their land in the name of progress, and who take the best new jobs that sprout with economic development.  Any protest at these injustices are treated severely.

Amnesty International has published a new 160-page report this week on Xinjiang detailing the horrors being perpetrated on Uyghurs, Kazakhs, and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  Amnesty has simultaneously announced a campaign on their behalf.

Persecution, mass imprisonment in what can best be described as concentration camps, intensive interrogation and torture are actions that come under the definition of ‘crimes against humanity’.  More than 50 people who spent time in these camps contributed first-hand accounts that form the substance of the report.  It is not easy reading for these people have themselves suffered maltreatment even torture in many instances.

The UN has claimed that 1.5 million Muslims (Uighurs, Kazakhs, Uzbeks and Tajiks) are in these internment camps and China’s claims of re-education camps made to sound as benign as college campuses are patently false.

People report being interviewed in police stations and then transferred to the camps.  Their interrogation was frequently conducted on ‘tiger chairs’:   The interviewee is strapped to a metal chair with leg irons and hands cuffed in such a manner that the seating position soon becomes exceedingly painful.  Some victims were hooded; some left that way for 24 hours or more, and thus were forced to relieve themselves, even defecate, where they sat.  Beatings and sleep deprivation were also common.

Activities were closely monitored and they were mostly forbidden to speak to other internees including cell mates.  Trivial errors such as responding to guards or other officials in their native language instead of Mandarin Chinese resulted in punishment.

Amnesty’s sources reported the routine was relentless.  Wake up at 5am.  Make bed — it had to be perfect.  A flag-raising and oath-taking ceremony before breakfast at 7 am.  Then to the classroom.  Back to the canteen for lunch.  More classes after.  Then dinner.  Then more classes before bed.  At night two people had to be on duty for two hours monitoring the others leaving people exhausted.  You never see sunlight while you are there, they said.  That was because they were never taken outside as is done in most prisons.

The re-education requires them to disavow Islam, stop using their native language, give up cultural practices, and become Mandarin-speaking ‘Chinese’.

Such are the freedoms in Xi Jinping’s China.  If China’s other leaders prior to Mr. Xi effected moderate policies in concert with advisers, it is no longer the case.  Mr. Xi works with a small group of like minds.  He has also removed the two-term or eight-year limit on being president.  President for life as some leaders like to call themselves, then why not Mr. Xi.  His anti-democratic values make him eminently qualified. 

An enlightened leader might have used the colorful culture of these minorities to attract tourists and show them the diversity of China.  Not Mr. Xi, who would rather have everyone march in lockstep to a colorless utopia reminiscent of the grey clothing and closed-collar jackets of the Maoist era. 

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East Asia

Looking back on India-China ties, one year past the Galwan incident

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Two nuclear-armed neighbouring countries with a billion-plus people each, geographically positioned alongside a 3,488-km undemarcated border in the high Himalayas. This is the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China’s Tibet Autonomous Region. Differences in perception of alignment of this border for both sides have contributed to a seemingly unending dispute.

Chinese unilateral attempt to change status quo in 2020

One year back, on 15 June 2020, a clash between Indian and Chinese troops in the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh turned bloody, resulting in the death of 20 soldiers in the former side and four in the latter side. It was an unfortunate culmination of a stand-off going on since early May that year, triggered by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops encountering Indian troops who were patrolling on their traditional limits.

It was followed by amassing of troops in large number by China on its side and some of them crossed the line over without any provocation, thereby blocking and threatening India’s routine military activities on its side of the traditionally accepted border. It was a unilateral attempt by the Chinese Communist Party-run government in Beijing to forcefully alter the status quo on the ground.

The LAC as an idea

Over the years, the LAC has witnessed one major war resulting from a Chinese surprise attack on India in 1962 and periodic skirmishes along the various friction points of the border, as seen in the years 1967, 1975, 1986-87, 2013, 2017, and the most recent 2020 Galwan Valley incident, the last being the worst in five decades. Post-Galwan, the optics appeared too high on both sides.

The LAC as an idea emerged with the annexation of Buddhist Tibet by Chinese communist forces in the early 1950s, bringing China to India’s border for the first time in history. This idea just emerged and was taking shape through the Jawaharlal Nehru-Zhou Enlai letters of correspondence that followed.

In 1962, while the world was engrossed upon the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Chinese inflicted a huge military and psychological debacle on unprepared and outnumbered Indian soldiers in a month-long war along this border.

Even to this date, there is still no mutually agreeable cartographic depiction of the LAC. It varies on perceptions.

What could’ve led to 2020 stand-off?

One of the reasons that led to the current new low in India-China ties, other than differing perceptions, is the improvement in Indian infrastructure capabilities along the rough mountainous terrains of the Himalayan borders and its resolve to be on par with China in this front. This has been a cause of concern in Chinese strategic calculations for its Tibetan border.

The carving up of the Indian union territory of Ladakh with majority Buddhists from the erstwhile Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 has indeed added to Beijing’s concerns over the area.

For the past few years, India has been upfront in scaling up its border infrastructure throughout the vast stretch of LAC, including in eastern Ladakh, where the 2020 stand-off took place. There is a serious trust deficit between India and China today, if not an evolving security dilemma.

Post-Galwan engagement

Several rounds of talks were held at the military and the diplomatic levels after the Galwan incident, the working-level mechanisms got renewed and new action plans were being formed before the process of disengagement finally began.

The foreign ministers of both countries even met in Moscow on the side-lines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet in September, which was followed by a BRICS summit where Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping came face-to-face in November, although virtually.

By February 2021, the process of disengagement of troops gained momentum on the ground around the Pangong lake area. So far, eleven rounds of talks were held at the military level on the ground at the border. But, the disengagement is yet to be fully completed in the friction points of Hot Springs and the Depsang Plains.

Diplomacy is gone with the wind

All the bilateral border agreements and protocols for confidence-building that were signed between the both countries in the years 1993, 1996, 2005, 2012 and 2013 were rendered futile by the Chinese PLA’s act of belligerence in Galwan.

The spirit of two informal Narendra Modi-Xi Jinping summits to build trust after the 2017 Doklam standoff, one in Wuhan, China (2018) and the other in Mamallapuram, India (2019) was completely gone with the wind. This is further exacerbated by the Chinese practice of ‘wolf-warrior diplomacy’, which is clearly undiplomatic in nature.

India’s diversification of fronts

Coming to the maritime domain, India has upped the ante by the joint naval exercises (Exercise Malabar 2020) with all the Quad partners in November, last year. Thereby, New Delhi has opened a new front away from the Himalayan frontiers into the broader picture of India-China strategic rivalry. Australia joined the exercise, after 13 years, with India, Japan, and the United States, a move indicative of militarisation or securitisation of the Quad partnership.

Recently, India has been consolidating its position over the union territory of Andaman and Nicobar Islands, lying southeast to the mainland, and close to the strategic Strait of Malacca, through which a major proportion of China’s crude oil imports pass through before venturing out to the ports of South China Sea.

Economic ties, yearning to decouple

Last year, India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar remarked that border tensions cannot continue along with co-operation with China in other areas. In this regard, the Narendra Modi government has been taking moves to counter China in the economic front by banning a large number of Chinese apps, citing security reasons, thereby costing the Chinese companies a billion-size profitable market. The Indian government has also refused to allow Chinese tech companies Huawei and ZTE to participate in India’s rollout of the 5G technology.

Moreover, India, Australia and Japan have collectively launched a Supply Chain Resilience Initiative (SCRI) in 2020 aimed at diversifying supply chain risks away from one or a few countries, apparently aimed at reducing their dependence on China. In terms of trade, India is still struggling to decouple with China, a key source of relatively cheap products for Indian exporters, particularly the pandemic-related pharmaceutical and related supplies in the current times.

But, the Indian government’s recent domestic policies such as “Self-Reliant India” (Atmanirbhar Bharat) have contributed to a decline in India’s trade deficit vis-à-vis China to a five-year low in 2020, falling to around $46 billion from around $57 billion in 2019.

The broader picture

The border dispute remains at the core of a range of issues that define the overall India-China bilateral relations. Other issues include trade and economics, Beijing’s close ties with Islamabad, the succession of Dalai Lama who has taken asylum in India since 1959 and the issue of Tibetan refugees living in India, educational ties, and the strategic rivalry in India’s neighbourhood, i.e., South Asia and the Indian Ocean Region, among others.

Chinese belligerence has led India to find its place easily in the evolving ‘new Cold War’

The more China turns aggressive at its border with India, the more it will bring India close to the United States and the West. Despite India’s traditional posture of indifference to allying itself exclusively with a power bloc, in the recently concluded G7 summit, India referred to the grouping of liberal democracies as a ‘natural ally’.

India has been raising the need for a free, open and rules-based Indo-Pacific in as many multilateral forums as possible, a concept which China considers as a containment strategy of the United States. Possibly, India might also join the G7’s newly announced infrastructure project for developing countries in an appropriate time, as it is initiated as a counterweight to China’s multi trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative.

There was a time in the past when the former Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru sought to lead Asia by cooperating with China. Considering today’s changed geopolitical realities and power dynamics, nowhere in anyone’s wildest dreams such an idea would work out. Prime Minister Modi’s muscular foreign policy imperatives are aligning well with the Joe Biden-led Western response to the looming common threat arising from Beijing.

Today, encountering Xi Jinping’s grand strategy of Chinese domination of the world (by abandoning its yesteryear policy of ‘peaceful rise’) is a collective endeavour of peace-loving democracies around the world, to which Asia is particularly looking forward. Most notably, it comes amid an inescapable web of global economic inter-connectedness, even among rival powers.

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