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China's Enemies Are All Around Part One

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Andrei Chang
Hong Kong (UPI) Nov 12, 2008
China's military preparedness and strategic deployment of weaponry take into consideration a whole range of potential enemies, an analysis of internal People's Liberation Army documents has revealed.

In order of importance -- that is, the likelihood of actual military engagement -- those enemies are Taiwan, the United States and Japan -- as potential defenders of Taiwan, India, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, Russia and the U.S.-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Chinese military journals consistently criticize the United States for seeking to isolate and contain China. The PLA's indignation and frustration over this perceived U.S. interference is a reflection of its ambition to become a global hegemon, or at least a regional one.

As evidence of U.S. hostility, the military journals cite Washington's sales of arms to Taiwan, its military alliance with Japan, its support of NATO's eastward expansion, the stationing of a permanent force in Afghanistan, the expansion of its nuclear arsenal and its influence in restricting European arms sales to China. The journals claim these U.S. actions all pose a direct or indirect threat to China's national security.

As for Japan, despite warmer political relations between the two countries in recent months, there are two prickly issues that will not be easily resolved. One is the territorial fight over the Diaoyutai Islands -- which Japan calls the Senkakus -- and the other is the dispute over the exact location of the border in the East China Sea, in the midst of rich oil and gas reserves that both sides claim.

For now the two sides are working together to develop these resources, but the lack of a legally defined border makes the situation unpredictable. Also, China remains highly wary of any Japanese steps to strengthen its military.

On the Indian front, mistrust between the two countries has become more heated. New Delhi is wary of China's increased deployment of ballistic missiles aimed at India, the activities of the Chinese navy in the Indian Ocean and China's intentions with regard to territorial disputes.

On the other hand, China is also keeping an eye on India's active development of its Flame III intermediate-range ballistic missile, the activities of the Indian navy in the South China Sea and India's constantly changing attitude with regard to border disputes.

Differences between China and Vietnam focus on disputed maritime territories. At the same time, China is watching closely Vietnam's rapprochement to India and the United States.

As for the members of the Association of South East Nations, they too have disputes with China over territories at sea. China thinks it eventually will recapture the Nansha Islands -- better known as the Spratlys -- located between Vietnam and the Philippines and claimed by both, as well as by China. The area is a rich fishing ground and may also contain oil and gas. There may one day be a struggle over ownership of these islands.

In the midst of these disputes, since the mid-1990s Chinese military strategists have focused on one key issue -- the economic, political and national security benefits of expanding the military and centralizing all forces to "solve the Taiwan issue." Their position was that after Taiwan was reunited with the mainland, there would be additional economic benefits and national security gains resulting from the military buildup.

One argument held that the South China Sea disputes could be easily resolved when the time was right. Toward that end, there was a need to develop major maritime combat platforms, including an aircraft carrier.

(Part 2: China is concerned about the resurgence of extreme nationalism within Russia, which could lead to territorial demands on China.)

(Andrei Chang is editor in chief of Kanwa Defense Review Monthly, registered in Toronto.)

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