Congratulations, Beijing. The South China Sea Is Now Yours.

Chinese sailors march in a massive military parade in Beijing. (GETTY IMAGES)

 

China’s dominance of this strategic sea gate is effectively complete.

As recently as July 2016, it looked as if conflict could erupt between the United States, China, and possibly some smaller Asian nations over Beijing’s belligerent drive to transform the South China Sea into a “Chinese lake.” That month, the already fraught situation became far more volatile when the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague ruled against some of China’s territorial claims in the area, after which China vowed to use “all necessary measures” to safeguard its control of the region.

But now, despite the Trump administration’s decision on May 24 to conduct a naval action in the region, it is clear that China has emerged from this dispute victorious. The South China Sea—the vast, resource-rich region through which a third of global maritime commerce flows—is now the de facto territory of Beijing.

“It is, unfortunately, now game over,” said Mira Rapp-Hooper, a senior fellow at the Washington D.C.-based Center for a New American Security.

This “unfortunate” turn of the tides reveals America’s fading influence, China’s rising power (and increasing shrewdness about how to effectively use that power), and that the smaller Asian states are pragmatic and circumspect about these shifts.

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China and Russia did what came naturally: Fill the vacuum of power created by Obama administration

Revelations that the People’s Republic of China was developing a next-generation, long- range strategic bomber and a so-called sixth- generation fighter aircraft should have come as no surprise to Western defense leaders.

The news has, however, been met with skepticism and incredulity. And confusion as to how to respond.

There is little doubt that U.S. President Barack Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton threw down the gauntlet to the PRC when, in 2009, they declared the U.S. “pivot to Asia”. It turned out to be an empty gesture, which only highlighted the lack of strategy from the Obama Administration.

Given that the administration had abandoned U.S. global strategic credibility and prestige, and had begun even then to hollow out the coherent ethos of the U.S. military capability, the PRC had but one option: to take a deep breath and seize the only option open to it. Continue reading

Cynical Options

Out of all this mess, nobody is certain exactly what’s going to happen next. However, one thing is certain: Damascus will fall.

Whether it’s today, tomorrow or next year, by bombs and sudden war or slow destruction, Isaiah 17:1 will absolutely be fulfilled.

 

DAMASCUS/NEW YORK/BERLIN (Own report) – In New York, Germany’s foreign minister will take part in talks this week to seek possible alignments of interests between the major powers in reference to the war in Syria. Parallel developments have made it appear advisable for western powers to accept ending – or at least freezing – the war. Russia has grown stronger and can no longer be ignored in Middle East affairs. Simultaneously, the US administration would like to proceed with its announced global political “pivot to Asia” and would like to avoid over-stretching its forces in the Middle East quagmire – as the Bush administration had done. Berlin, and the rest of the EU are currently doing everything to halt the flow of refugees. It can no longer be afforded to bleed Syria dry with this war, according to one author. A similar alignment of interests would already have been possible back in February 2012, reported the diplomat and former President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari. At the time, according to his account, Russia had proposed to the West that the Syrian government and opposition reach an agreement, following a period of grace, President Bashar al Assad would be forced to step down. According to Ahtisaari, the West, turned down the proposition, based on the assumption of Assad’s assured overthrow and a complete takeover of Syria. Berlin also followed this line of action. The theme discussed in the current talks resemble Moscow’s proposition at that time – three and a half years and hundreds of thousands of deaths later.

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America’s crucial credibility abroad declines with the loss of trust — and respect

The retrenchment of U.S. foreign policy under Barack Obama is triggering major changes in relations with formerly stout allies around the globe.

In Europe, Asia and the Middle East, trust in the Obama administration among U.S. allies is at an all-time low and reflected in numerous policy decisions, undermining one the America’s most important foreign policy assets.

For the United States, relationships with the United Kingdom, Japan and Israel have plummeted. The result is the pursuit by these nations of policies that are much less supportive than in the past of U.S. leadership and foreign policy priorities.

In the United Kingdom, David Cameron and his Conservative Party have just won re-election by a surprisingly large margin. The prime minister’s relationship with President Obama is best described as “proper” but there are no close personal ties like those that marked relationships between past U.S. presidents and UK counterparts. Continue reading

The Great South China Sea Hydrocarbon Grab

In all of the struggles for territory in history, none has been quite as ambitious or unusual as a country trying to steal a whole ocean.

But that is what China is actively doing in the ocean south of the mainland: the South China Sea. Bit by bit, it is establishing hegemony over this most important sea where the littoral states — China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and Vietnam — have territorial claims.

The importance of the South China Sea is hard to overestimate. Some of the most vital international sea lanes traverse it; it is one of the great fishing areas; and the ocean bed, near land, has large reserves of oil and gas. No wonder everyone wants a piece of it — and China wants all of it. Continue reading

China is no refuge from Obama’s woes

Beijing sees the US president as a weak leader in the autumn of his presidency

Second-term US presidents traditionally seek solace on the global stage. Barack Obama is no exception. Following last week’s drubbing in the US midterm elections, he lands in China on Monday for a summit with Xi Jinping. He is unlikely to find Beijing more pliable than Washington DC. As time goes on, it becomes ever harder to separate his domestic weakness from his global standing. Even the tone is spreading. “US society has grown tired of [Obama’s] banality,” China’s semi-official Global Times said last week. Continue reading

Obama’s pivot to Asia will lack firepower

President Obama’s pivot to Asia will lack a crucial military underpinning next year, when for four months, the Navy will not have an aircraft carrier in the region.

Defense cuts have helped shrink the number of available carriers, alarming GOP lawmakers who are fighting the Pentagon’s plan to permanently cut the number of U.S. carriers to 10.

They argue not having a carrier in the region for months at a time will send a signal of U.S. weakness, as China seeks to make territorial claims against several U.S. allies over the South China Sea. Continue reading

Chinese Military Can ‘Fight Any Battle and Win’

As the article states, intra-Asian diplomacy is what’s going to hold the key. The more time that’s wasted by the United States in taking a clear stand, the more likely Japan will try to come to terms with China on its own. Coming to terms could also eventually lead into an Asian economic and security bloc with China as the umbrella protectorate.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s whirlwind tour of China in early April saw a tense exchange with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan over the United States’ pivot to Asia.  China would “make no compromise, no concession, no treaty,” Chang said, adding, “the Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.”

Hagel, for his part, said that the United States was “fully committed” to is treaty obligations with the Philippines and with Japan — which administers the Senkakus, the disputed islands which China claims and calls the Diaoyu. In the days leading up to U.S. President Barack Obama’s late April trip to the region, where is visiting Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Malaysia — and pointedly not China — there is a worrying amount of strain among China, Japan, and the United States. Are temperatures running so high that China might actually seize the Senkakus by force? Or are these worries overblown? Continue reading

China’s Push Into ‘America’s Backyard’

The United States has been quite vocal about its “pivot to Asia,” but as Washington seeks to further its influence in the Asia-Pacific, China has been quietly upping its own importance to Central and Latin America. Now China is making a push to further its engagement with countries in the Western Hemisphere, as evidenced by the announcement of a new dialogue mechanism. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which met in Cuba from January 28 to 29, adopted a statement announcing the establishment of a China-CELAC Forum. Continue reading