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China Gets What China Wants?

Till recently, the position of the Chinese leaders was that China can do no wrong. If Chinese espionage agents abroad were caught in the act, Beijing’s retort would claim false accusations to denigrate China. They would leave it to public memory to fade and forget about it. They stole the miniature nuclear warhead design from the USA in the 1970s. They threatened and bribed US companies in the mid-1990s to share technology related to heat shielding and multiple warheads for missiles. In the scientific world of experts, there is something called “signatures” of technologies which cannot be hidden.

But the Chinese are not the only ones involved in espionage of military, dual use, and civilian technology. Others do it, too. But others do not take a “holier than thou” position.

All said and done, the international community expected the burgeoning Chinese economy, which comes from trade with other countries, to also do their share of work and take responsibility in the global economic down turn. Beijing says, it has done enough and it is not right to expect them to do more.

China has just emerged as the second largest economy in the world, knocking out Japan to third place, and panting just behind the US. It is projected that by 2020 the Chinese economy will outstrip that of the US. This elevates Beijing to the position of an economic superpower, backed by a fast growing military might next to that of the US. Its combined economic and military power which transcends to diplomatic and political power may not yet be able to threaten the US at its shores. But it challenges the US in the Asia-Pacific region, and overwhelms countries of the region and beyond with which it demands territories that it perceives belong to it historically.

It is sad, but China brings up historical claims above international laws. It is more unfortunate that it emasculates history and concocts new history, and use paid foreign writers to substantiate their claims. The proof lies in the fact that history is created incrementally as China discovers new territories, land and sea that can help it project its power even farther from its immediate borders.

In the last two months, China has become more and more transparent and even more acerbically assertive that “China gets what China wants”. And it does not hide that military options to get what it wants is always on the table. To the US, it was a message that US would get a bloody nose if it interferes with China’s want. To the neighbours, the message was “be reasonable, we will take your property but will also give you some fish and noodles”.

While the above is corroborated by developments on the ground (or waters), the Chinese claims on the sea are beginning to raise very serious concerns among not only its Asia-Pacific neighbours, but all other countries that use the commercial sea lanes from the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait to East Sea or Sea of Japan.

The under currents of tensions in North East Asia and China’s manipulations came to the surface when a North Korean submarine torpedoed and sank a South Korean frigate in South Korean waters in March (2010). Seoul took almost two months to come out with this incident in which 46 of their sailors had died. They had to be careful and absolutely sure.

Western experts examining the frigate wreak confirmed the South Korean findings, but China did a filibustering. It did not release its inquiry report and asked for all to observe restraint.

Following this, when North Korea gave an indication of a possible third nuclear test, and followed up with possible use of nuclear weapons against the US-South Korean naval exercise in the region to warn Pyongyang against future attacks, Beijing took a very different line. It described this exercise as mounted against China, conducted its own military exercises, with live firing, and charged the US of intruding into China sovereignty.

Following this Chinese came out with an exposition of “Sovereign waters”, “Waters of China’s interest”, and “Psychological Territorial Seas” (Please see SAAG Paper No.3953 dated July 27, 2010).

It is obvious the US has been reconnecting China’s boundaries on the waters and air. The US was careful to work within international laws, but it was a provocation for China. In the context of US-South Korea military exercise in late July, the US also announced that it will conduct such exercises till the end of the year.

Whether the US announcement was a deliberate trap enmeshed in provocation is not known. It was reinforced by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assertion at the ARF Summit in Hanoi (July 23), that the open Sea way of the South China Sea was in America’s national interest.

The Chinese response to the above clearly proved that China must get what China wants. The subsequent Chinese naval exercise conducted in the south China Sea (July 01-02) with all its three navies participating and overseen by Central Military Commission members Gen. Chen Bingde and Navy Chief Wu Shengli has brought to the fore China’s determination. Following this, the Chinese military started a 5-day naval-air fire exercise in the Yellow Sea.

A series of military exercises conducted by China so far in its territorial waters and beyond (South China Sea) leaves no doubt that China is prepared to use all means to control the waterways of international shipping. South China Sea control suggests stretching gradually to the eastern mouth of the Malacca Strait. Its very nascent naval deployment in the Indian Ocean with friends and allies in the region further indicates plans to control of the Malacca strait from the West, too.

Most recent writings in China’s most authoritative mouthpiece, the People’s Daily (July 29), signals that it is willing to work with the US if Washington accepts it as the second world power and divide areas of domination. US President Barack Obama had suggested G-2 or the two great powers of US and China. That was too open and blatant for China’s Confucious strategy. It wants a recognition and space without overt declaration.

This is almost like a crime thriller hidden operation. The US is pivotal here, and Secretary Clinton has taken a stand that contradicts President Obama’s uninitiated policies.

South East Asian countries like Vietnam and Malaysia are awakening to the situation. Even Russia would not endorse a Chinese domination of the kind. Moscow supplying six kilo class diesel submarines and Sovereigmny class destroyers to Vietnam may be seen in this context.

India’s economic, trade and diplomatic interest in South East Asia and the Far East are of national interest as one of the traditional maritime routes. That cannot be compromised. New Delhi must take the call now on how to secure its national interests in the concerned regions.


A plotting of the Chinese military exercise conducted off waters off its shores Beijing is working to extend its sovereign waters as per international laws to de facto waters of its control to the first island chain from the Japanese and Korean coast to South China Sea. That would block all international shipping. It further suggests either (a) the political leadership is projecting a reasonable diplomacy while the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is adopting a national security role, or (b) the PLA has wrested from the political leadership issues concerning national security and territorial issues. If the latter is correct it is definitely a case of alarm.

(The, writer, Mr Bhaskar Roy, is an eminent China analyst based in New Delhi.Email:

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