China is flexing more than its economic muscle

As if we didn’t already have enough to worry about in terms of foreign policy. With so many other spots around the globe either figuratively or literally going up in flames it’s probably easy to lose sight of what’s going on with China. Going back to the seventies we’ve tended to largely see China as an economic power which grew to a very dominant status in the world markets and plagued trade issues. What we weren’t terribly worried about (with a few notable exceptions) was China’s military might. They were always the dominant force in their own neighborhood and they exerted a lot of muscle on anyone who opposed them in the region, but it always felt as if they never grew into the same sort of global menace that the former USSR did. (At least in discussions around the kitchen table.)


Things have been changing lately, though, and it’s getting much harder to ignore. Their most recent moves have been nothing short of direct provocations to the United States and they have nothing to do with slashing the value of their currency. (From Peter Brookes at the Daily Signal)

Despite talk of peace, Beijing was sending a message to the region—and to the world, especially the United States—that China has awoken from its security slumber and is a giant not to be messed with.

Hard to miss the in-your-face symbolism of China parading ballistic missiles—with military designations written on the side in English—that analysts have dubbed the “carrier killer” and the “Guam?killer.”

That’s right: two of the ballistic missiles reportedly showcased at the parade last week are believed to have been designed for the purposes of destroying an American aircraft carrier and targeting U.S. military bases on Guam.

Last week the Chinese held a massive celebration, ostensibly to mark the anniversary of the end of World War 2, but the display was beyond ostentatious and it didn’t really have a message of peace underlying it. Does this picture remind anyone of things we saw in a different era from a different empire? (CNN)


If that wasn’t enough, they sent their recently upgraded navy out for a pleasure cruise near Alaska. And in case that move was too subtle for the rest of the world they did it while Barack Obama was up there having bear killed salmon with a reality show host.


So what are the Chinese trying to get across with all of these provocative actions in such a short space of time? Brookes has a few ideas.

Several messages China is sending here:

  • We can reach out and touch you if we want.
  • We can put ships off your coast just as you do ours.
  • We don’t like you contesting our new “instant islands” in the South China Sea.
  • We can send our “new” navy anywhere.

As I’ve stated here in the past, I remain at least less concerned about what China does in the South China Sea. That’s really their back yard and it’s a logistical nightmare to to push them too hard on their own turf unless we’re actually looking for a shooting war. They’re building some artificial islands which is certainly a jab to the ribs of everyone else in the region, but it’s not as if they didn’t already control that area militarily, or couldn’t do so on a moment’s notice if they really wanted to. But the ballistic missiles, the new aircraft carriers and the naval exercises barely fifteen miles from our shores are ramping things up several notches.

Exit question: Was this inevitable no matter what the rest of the world was doing or is this a gambit in response to what they see as a weakening of the world’s sole remaining superpower and a willingness to step in and begin filling the vacuum? China seemed happy enough for decades to simply be an economic powerhouse with their massive, cheap labor market and to rely on their billion (!) man army to ensure nobody encroached on their turf. Projecting power around the globe is a far more expensive proposition with very little return on investment. (We’ve learned that one the hard way.) So why would they do it now?


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