As we’ve observed previously, the Trump administration appears bent on framing downward spiraling American-Sino relations through a new Cold War paradigm.
Ironically this was on display most on the occasion yesterday of Pompeo’s speech meant to commemorate when President Richard Nixon became the first US president to travel to China. Perhaps the central Cold War style rhetorical appeal to the American public which hearkens back to that 20th century period marked chiefly by “fear” when the US and Soviets had nuclear missiles pointed at each other came here:
“If we bend the knee now, our children’s children may be at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party, whose actions are the primary challenge today in the free world,” Pompeo said.
And then there’s the very title of the speech given at the Nixon Library: “Communist China and the Free World’s Future,” underscoring the new Cold War mentality driving the worsening tit-for-tat.
And then this:
“We can’t face this challenge alone….Maybe it’s time for a new grouping of like-minded nations, a new alliance of democracies…If the free world doesn’t change Communist China, Communist China will change us.”
He also openly advanced “color revolution” type appeals, a huge poke in the eye to Beijing, with talk of “empowering” the Chinese people to change the “behavior” of the tyrannical Communist Party (CCP).
The Communist Party “fears the Chinese people’s honest opinions more than any foe,” Pompeo said, therefore Washington “must also engage and empower the Chinese people.”
Speaking of the Houston consulate affair, State Dept. spokesperson Morgan Ortagus previously said that they “had to make the decision to close down this consulate due to this massive, massive theft of our research and our intellectual property.”
While the immediate driving context remains the issue of “at least $1 billion” in theft of trade secrets and research (including coronavirus data) from the United States, in remains that the US and Chinese militaries are increasingly in sharp competition.
In this newly advanced Trump administration modern day Cold War narrative, this military expansion angle should not be forgotten (now perhaps a remote threat, soon to be more immediate).
Indeed amid this week’s huge diplomatic rift centered on Chinese diplomatic outposts as “spy centers,” there’s been little commentary on a bombshell Reuters investigation from days ago which forecasts that within the next decade, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will have used its amphibious forces and PLA Marines to establish itself as a serious military power far beyond Asia.
“We are currently only seeing the tip of the iceberg,” a Chinese military specialist, Ian Easton, was quoted in the report as saying.
“Ten years from now, China is almost certainly going to have marine units deployed at locations all over the world. The Chinese Communist Party’s ambitions are global. Its interests are global. It plans to send military units wherever its global strategic interests require.”
Below are some key excerpts from the lengthy report published at the start of this most tumultuous week of Washington-Beijing standoff…
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Experts on amphibious forces note the PLA already has powerful army units that are trained and equipped to make the kind of landings necessary for an invasion of Taiwan. In expanding the marines, they argue, PLA military planners are looking at operations across the globe, in places where China has extensive offshore investments. These commercial interests are likely to multiply as Beijing presses ahead with its Belt and Road Initiative, an ambitious bid to put China at the center of global trading routes.
China’s marines will also be important to man what is expected to become a network of strategic military bases around the world, including fortifications on territory Beijing has seized in the South China Sea, according to Chinese and Western military commentators.
Beijing has already deployed marines and their armored vehicles to its first overseas base at Djibouti on the Horn of Africa, according to Pentagon reports. Marines are also deployed on the flotillas China sends on naval anti-piracy missions to the Gulf of Aden, these reports said.
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Chinese military commentators quoted in official media say China’s shipyards are now building and launching amphibious ships so rapidly it is like “dropping dumplings” into water.
The military rivalry between China and the United States is only growing sharper. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared most of Beijing’s claims of sovereignty in the South China Sea illegal, throwing Washington’s weight behind the rival claims of Southeast Asian nations over territory and resources in the strategic waterway that were supported by international law. China said the U.S. position raised tensions in the region and undermined stability.
China’s nascent amphibious forces still lag far behind those of the United States, but the speed of China’s military rise has already shifted the balance of power in Asia. Over the past two decades, China has deployed an arsenal of missiles and a massive surface and sub-surface fleet to deter potential enemies from sailing in its coastal waters. Now, as part of an accelerated modernization of the PLA since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, these new amphibious ships and the specially trained marines they carry will boost Beijing’s firepower and political influence far from its shores, according to Chinese and Western military analysts.
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As shipyards churn out amphibious vessels, China is expanding its force of marines under the command of the PLA Navy. These troops are being trained and equipped to make landings and fight their way ashore. China now has between 25,000 and 35,000 marines, according to U.S. and Japanese military estimates. That’s a sharp increase from about 10,000 in 2017.
…Short of war, capable amphibious forces will also become a powerful diplomatic or coercive tool for Beijing, military analysts say. So far, Washington has had a monopoly on this type of engagement with other governments, routinely sending marine expeditionary units abroad for port visits, joint training exercises and disaster relief.
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Read the rest of the full report here.