In case you haven’t heard, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is making incredible claims on the territories of its neighbors and getting tough with the world. Some of those countries have had enough of China’s hawkish policies and are pushing back. Tensions in the region are escalating literally every day. Is war imminent? Will the global economy be impacted? We’ll learn the answers to these questions very soon.
There appears to be two main issues creating tensions: land and trade. Let’s look at land first.
The CCP claims that it owns many territories and waters near mainland China. It also claims many others far away. If this sounds like bluff and bluster, it isn’t: China has gotten into very heated battles to enforce its claims and may do so again.
Disputes over land are not new. Israel lives with this problem on a daily basis and so do other countries. What makes China’s claims unusual are the amount of lands in question and the many countries involved. Commentators say that many of China’s claims are unsubstantiated.
You Belong To Me
China borders 14 countries but claims territories belonging to 23 nations. And the total area China claims far exceeds the size of modern China itself.
Probably the best known of these disputes is Taiwan, but there are many others. Among them:
*two large disputed areas on the border with India
*90% of the South China Sea; and
*the Spratly Islands, which are 1000 kilometers from China
And there is a lot more. China also claims much of Burma, parts of Cambodia, the majority of Kyrgyzstan, large areas of Laos, all of Mongolia, and parts of Nepal and Tibet. On occasion, it has claimed all of North Korea, parts of Pakistan, 160,000 square kilometers of Russia, most of Siberia, large parts of Vietnam, and at times all of South Korea.
China also claims parts of Hawaii, says that Chinese sailors had settled in Australia centuries before Europeans did, and says it has “discovered” a map dating back to 1418 that “proves” China discovered the Americas and other regions long before Columbus set sail. It says parts of other countries also belong to it.
China has enormous advantages over most of these nations. With a population of 1.4 billion, a very formidable military, and the world’s second largest economy, China can easily intimidate these disputants.
According to the YouTube film “High Tension: The US and Japan Join Forces to Fight and Push Back China,” a growing number of countries are pushing back with diplomacy and taking more aggressive postures.
Australia is one example. For many years it had a prosperous trade with China and a very friendly relationship. But since coming to power, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has taken a tougher stance against China’s growing influence in the region.
To counter this, Australia is developing a variety of advanced weapons and has entered into alliances with countries both within and beyond the region. Even some distant nations oppose China’s behavior, including a coalition of 16 European countries.
In Harm’s Way
June 15 saw a very heated clash between Indian and Chinese troops, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead and an unknown number of Chinese casualties. Both sides are reinforcing their positions. The Center for Strategic & International Studies says tensions remain very high.
But the country most in harm’s way in these disputes is Japan, and some observers are concerned the two countries may be heading for a military clash over the Senkaku Islands, which both countries claim.
Japan has administered these Islands since 1972. However, as many as 100 Chinese fishing boats may enter these waters in the very near future. Japan says those boats are actually part of China’s maritime militia, will attempt to exert dominance over the region, and may even be accompanied by Chinese Coast Guard or naval vessels. China, on the other hand, says the Senkaku Islands are part of its territory and that Japan has no right to order them out of the area.
Japan’s Defense Minister Taro Kono has warned that “anyone trying to change the status quo by force will pay a high price.”
US Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, head of US forces in Japan, said the “US was 100% steadfast in its commitment to help Japan.” Secretary of State Pompeo also stressed that Japan has the backing of the US in this issue.
It’s the Economy
There are also economic ramifications to these diplomatic disputes. Japan believes that the CCP wants to punish it because the Shinzo Abe administration is urging Japanese companies to move their manufacturing out of China.
Economic ramifications extend far beyond Japan. The US blames China for creating the COVID virus, allowing it to escape, and then - rather than alerting the world to the problem - covering it up, resulting in the battering of economies around the world and terrible illness and deaths.
Whether or not President Trump is right, he has indicated on various occasions that America too would be moving manufacturing out of China and increasingly be purchasing merchandise from domestic and other sources. Other nations have echoed these sentiments.
Meanwhile, military tensions are escalating. On August 11, the US destroyer Medusa entered China’s territorial islands without permission. China has recently sent an aircraft carrier and accompanying strike group to the Mikaku Straits between the Japanese islands of Okinawa and Miyaku. Taiwan has deployed 100 F-16s and related equipment as a warning to China not to try to seize land in the region. It also sent thousands of special forces and warships to strengthen its South China Sea border.
The New Zealand Herald reported that satellite images show a very significant Chinese military build-up of amphibious armored vehicles and multiple launch rocket systems that could hit any target in Taiwan.
The US and China have sparred over trade, technology, ideology, the South China Sea, and the pandemic. Meanwhile, Vietnam is emerging as another economic challenge to China. Several dozen multinationals have left China for Vietnam, boosting the Vietnamese economy at China’s expense. Interestingly, Russia supports both Vietnam and India in its dispute with China.
China’s economy is in tatters and getting worse. Major companies and banks have gone bankrupt or suffered huge losses and the natural disasters causing food shortages and creating horrific damage show no signs of letting up. Moreover, in recent months, China has lost a great deal of prestige, good will, and respect from people around the world - and probably won’t regain those any time soon.
Countries are much like people: For the most part they are non-confrontational and choose to avoid conflict. But when tensions become intense and prolonged, they sometimes act irrationally.
Hopefully all of these nations will continue to see war as a problem and not the solution to their problems.
Sources: abc.net.au; csis.org; nzherald.co.nz; wikipedia.com; wsj.com. YouTube video: “Vietnam is Beating China Like a Pro”; “High Tension: The US And Japan Join Forces to Fight And Push Back China”; “Dear XI, Japan Doesn’t Take Misadventures Lightly”; “The US Navy Will Destroy Chinese Warships If China Doesn’t Leave The South china Sea Islands”