Will China Soon Claim the Western Pacific?, by Austin Bay

If Communist China’s recent words and deeds reflect calculated design and totalitarian intent, we will soon hear Beijing declaring that the entire Western Pacific Ocean is a sovereign Chinese sea, where Beijing rules – the so-called international laws, UN treaties and resolutions are cursed.

Defining the terms helps expose Beijing’s strategic gamble, because it is a gamble: it is unresolved and not a guaranteed outcome, however communist China would like to see frightened bowing.

Terminology: Among diplomats, “words” translate to political rhetoric, propaganda, narrative warfare, and other coercive verbal and psychological theater. “Deeds” for generals and admirals are physical military actions or the threat of military actions done by physically demonstrating military ability (postural forces are a jargon term).

Since February, Beijing has raised the temperature of its violent verbal threats (hot words) and stepped up risky military clashes along its East Asian coast (threatening acts).

At the end of February, Russia invaded Ukraine. Chance? Maybe.

However, China’s bullying statements and insinuations at the recent Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore (June 10-12) were particularly troubling.

The annual conference bills itself as “Asia’s premier defense summit.” It’s a diplo-show, but it’s the one that usually counts.

The 2022 convocation was important: it helped define choices – either Chinese communist anarchy or a rules-based international order.

Beijing’s most disturbing propaganda assertion, made in recent months to American diplomats and in various diplomatic exchanges at the conference: the Taiwan Strait is not international water, it is sovereign Chinese territorial water and the international shipping can only cross the strait with permission from Beijing.

This represents a dangerous change. Beijing constantly protests against the US Navy’s freedom of navigation operations in the Taiwan Strait. However, according to US diplomats, so far Beijing has never specifically challenged the legality of free international shipping passing through the Taiwan Strait.

China has also signaled its readiness to assert its sovereign claim – presumably using its ever-growing navy and ever-stronger air force.

In classic terminology, Beijing has issued a casus belli – an act that could cause war – for nations dependent on free and secure maritime commerce.

China’s political rhetoric and military actions vis-à-vis the Taiwan Strait follow its South China Sea (SCS) invasion script.

In the 1990s, China began to expand its bases in the Paracel Islands and to build artificial islands, notably in the Spratly Islands (near the Philippines). Eventually he overcame these islands with runways capable of receiving combat aircraft.

In 2012, Beijing attempted to diplomatically and legally project power when it claimed control of 85% of the SCS’s roughly 2.2 million square miles. Chinese diplomats produced the Nine-Dash line. The line plunges hundreds of kilometers south from the Chinese coast to near the island of Borneo, encroaching on territory belonging to the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. In 2016, the arbitral tribunal in The Hague upheld the Philippines’ accusation that China had intruded on Philippine territory by seizing islets and carrying out illegal fishing operations.

The UN has declared communist China anarchic. China ignored the verdict.

So far, China has not paid the price for anarchy.

China’s “artificial island” goal around 2020: deny the US Navy access to the South China Sea and project energy to Singapore and the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Pacific and Indian oceans.

It’s 2022. Beijing hasn’t reached the 2020 target but the boys of Beijing haven’t given up.

China views the Biden administration as weak and irresponsible. Given Hunter Biden’s corruption, it’s not a conspiracy theory to think that Beijing has blackmail material on the Biden family.

That said, give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin credit for his candid comments in Singapore.

“We are seeing increasing coercion from Beijing,” Austin said. “We have seen a steady increase in provocative and destabilizing military activity near Taiwan.” The “provocative” actions include aerial interceptions of US and Canadian flights monitoring North Korea. Taiwan has suffered increasing Chinese violations of its air defense zone.

In addition, China has announced to increase its nuclear arsenal. US intelligence estimates that China could have around 1,000 nuclear warheads by 2029.

To learn more about Austin Bay and read articles from other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Photo credit: zhushenje at Pixabay

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