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Geopolitics and the modernization of the armed forces of China

10 Comments
By Lee Jay Walker

China continues to grow rapidly in the economic field and for many nations, China is a stabilizing factor in a changing world. However, while the economic power of China is welcomed, the same does not apply to its military modernization. Therefore, are regional nations and America justified to raise issues about the military build-up of China?

According to political powers in China, the modernization of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is natural and organic. After all, amid the geopolitical reality, China can't help but be worried about many external issues. Also, the political elite within the Chinese Communist Party are also worried about sensitive domestic ethnic and religious issues.

Therefore, it appears that China does have a lot to be worried about, and the reality of the U.S. role in northeast Asia means that the rulers in Beijing are concerned about any possible containment policy. That's not to say that all aspects of America’s foreign policy are deemed to be against the natural interests of China.

For example, the armed forces of America and NATO are intent on crushing Islamic terrorists in Afghanistan. This policy is in the interest of China because in western regions of China, there are ethnic and religious issues unsettling to Beijing. Also, Japan is "contained" by America and the fear of rising Japanese nationalism and military modernization is reduced by the U.S. influence in Japan and because of constitutional factors.

China claims that military modernization is natural and no different from other major powers which also have geopolitical concerns. I suspect that having to share space with many regional nations is the real issue behind China’s insecurity.

Northeast Asia is very diverse and varied, and China needs to focus on multiple areas. This applies to geography, economics, politics, religion, ethnicity, and many other factors. Added to this diverse reality is the nuclear dimension and this factor is a cause of concern. In fact, the nuclear dimension alone is more than problematic because America, China, Russia, India, North Korea and Pakistan are all nuclear powers.

Japan is also a nuclear power by stealth because of the de facto reality that this nation is protected by America and in the past Japan allowed American nuclear submarines within its waters. It is also clear that Japan could develop nuclear weapons if it wanted to. But constitutional factors, the legacy of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the U.S. protective umbrella mean that currently it is not feasible for Japan to develop nuclear weapons, but if internal changes occur in Japanese politics, then it is a distinct possibility, no matter how remote it may seem now.

Look at how many regions of China overlap in many parts of Asia -- for example, Central Asia, Northeast Asia, South Asia, Eurasia, the Mekong delta, and South China Sea region. This vast area is very diverse and China faces multiple challenges with regards to expanding its influence and defending any weak areas within its sphere of influence.

Taiwan is another complex matter, even though it is contained within a small geographic region. Relations between China and Taiwan are complex because economic ties continue to grow and both have vested interests in the economic modernization of China. However, in a worst-case scenario between China and the U.S., Taiwan could be used as a launching base by the Americans. Admittedly, it is most unlikely that America would give such complete support to Taiwan because of its own self-interests.

The economic angle means that trade investments between America and China, just like China and Taiwan, are enormous. Despite this, there are tensions based on currency manipulation and other factors and clearly, there is a lobby in America which is concerned about China.

China is also worried about certain aspects of U.S. foreign policy and this applies to bases being dotted in many nations throughout Asia. After all, America has military bases in Japan and South Korea, and Guam is being developed in order to increase Washington's leverage. Also, America has bases in other parts of Asia, and in the Pacific, Australia is a powerful ally.

Looking west, Sino-Indian relations are still fragile despite growing trade. India is also rightly concerned about China’s military support for Pakistan. Both nations share a complex relationship that involves territorial disputes, India's stance toward the Dalai Lama and Tibetan nationalism in India, and other issues based on protecting important sea-lanes and space.

Overall, China is right to worry about the geopolitical reality and its military modernization is based on this fact, the need to protect energy routes, concerns related to Islam in west China, Tibetan nationalism and political dissent. This reality is pushing China to move closer to Russia and nations in Central Asia. In recent times, this can be seen via the growing importance of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and China's recent military modernization has been enhanced by military purchases from Russia.

Also, from China’s point of view, the U.S. has a foot in its backyard, but China does not even have a toehold in the U.S. backyard. Therefore, I think China sees its military buildup as protecting itself from many possible scenarios during a time of conflict. It is not based on expansionism but protecting its self-interests.

I also believe that China does not desire a major military confrontation outside of a limited space. Instead, it needs to focus on economic modernization, stabilizing internal issues, protecting its energy routes and trying to resolve the growing gap between cities and the countryside.

China’s military modernization is natural and not based on confrontation and intimidating neighbors. After all, it must be remembered that China could have taken Hong Kong much earlier if it had desired. But its statecraft meant that patience was avirtue.

© Modern Tokyo Times

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

10 Comments
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I don't know why everybody just can't get along ? China is a nation of pride, that's all they're about. Everything they have can be circumvented by our joint military efforts if it was an extreme issue. They're proud of the renovated Ukraine aircraft carrier they bought, so they can enjoy their naval accomplishments on the seas, but to see them as a threat; is really getting annoying, and very childish. They want to approach this century with accomplishments and spontaneous modernization, God knows, they deserve it since coming out of strict communism and joining the U.N. so as to enjoy the freedoms of Capitalism.....leave them alone and let them learn.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

China is no different know than Japan during the Meiji era and the following period until WWII. With no democracy, no human rights, an oppressive regime, rampant corruption and a nationalistic internal policy of indoctrination and propaganda.

The only difference is that China has at least 10 times the population of Japan, its economy will soon be the largest in the world. To assume then, that China will become a humble and peaceful nation, only aiming to preserve balance and focussing solely on immediate self-defence is very naive to say the least.

Indeed, looking at the way they China has already been bullying smaller nations such as Vietnam, Japan, and the Phillipines in recent years, its continuing campaign of obtaining intellectual property and Western military technology at any costs, the omens are not good.

Empires come and go, and it is now China's turn to prevail over all other nations. Let's hope China will use its new found power with great care and responsibility and create a better world for all of us.

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This is not a very good article. There's a whole lot of 'therefore's as if there is a conclusion from facts but the facts aren't there.

Therefore, I think China sees its military buildup as protecting itself from many possible scenarios during a time of conflict. It is not based on expansionism but protecting its self-interests.

I also believe that China does not desire a major military confrontation outside of a limited space.

Yes, believe is the key word here. You could look at the same set of circumstances as presented in this article and just as reasonably conclude that China is looking to expand its power to become the major force in Asia. They are looking to expand their navy to expand there sphere of influence to places like the Spratlys (clearly NOT Chinese territory, yet they claim it). The only reason China needs aircraft carriers is to project power, not for defense - carriers are used offensively!

China is only protecting its self-interests in the same way that the Soviets protected their national interests by invading and creating satellite countries.

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"China’s military modernization is natural and not based on confrontation and intimidating neighbors."

Where has this writter been the last couple years? How did he miss China's attempts at intimidation of the Philippines, Japan, Taiwan and other Asian states over territories China claims, but everyone else disputes?

I am sick to death of China apologists who ignore the rising threat that China's policies pose to Asian security. The risk of a new arms race alone in Asia should be raising great concern.

Now it is easy to say that the US is the bad guy that China needs to fear, yet China's epic growth is largely dependent upon money coming from US consumers and US and wester firms investing in and developing China's economy. Why would these heavily invested states want to have any conflict with China. The analysis of this article completely fails to take that consideration into account.

I often feel that watching China in 2011 is like watching Germany in the mid 1930's. A state with territorial aspirations that will put conflict on the horizon with many neighboring states. A state buidling a military at astounding speeds with no immediate threat to warrant such development. A state willing to bully states that do not comply with their wishes. And a state that has extensive repressive policies at home with very real threats to any form of dissent or opposition.

We should be careful in our economic support for China as we may well be building a new Frankenstein's monster. And we should not take China's military rise lightly. For those of us who lived through one cold war, we do not wish to see another. Especially one that is led by a state with so much capacity to bully Asia and to repress her own population. China is the only real and present danger in Asia.

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Really Mushroomcloudmaster.

Is it propaganda that China has been bullying the Philippines and Japan over territories?

Is it propaganda that they interfere with Taiwan's autonomy?

Is it propaganda that China restricts political, religious and individual freedom?

How about the occupation of Tibet, is that propaganda too? Or the repression of the Uyghurs in a zone that is supposed to be autonimous.

Come back to the debate table when you can refute the points. It is easy to say "propaganda" but a heck of a lot harder to refute actual points that make China a worry for Asia. Her military will help back her policies and there are many policies that we do not want to see imposed upon Asia. So... debate me if you can.

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tkoind2,

China is bullying the Philippines, Japan, and Vietnam. Call it China's version of the Monroe Doctrine. Strong countries have been known to act like this, think the USA, the former Great Britain, and former Imperial Japan. I think you need to grow a little to know that China feels it's her turn now. Of course, the USA will act like as the counterbalance. Fair?

Taiwan's autonomy: Yes, China is exerting her influence over Taiwan, in a much, much more diluted fashion to how Imperial Japan interfered with Korea. We all know what that led to. Point is, China is taking a much more tactful (and smarter) approach. Did you catch that?

Restrictions on political, religious and individual freedom: Obviously spoken from an ignorant individual who has spent no time in China. Chinese citizens DO have restrictions on political and religious freedom, but certainly NOT individual freedoms. There are more restrictions on economic freedoms here in the states than in China. Trust me, I know.

Occupation of Tibet: Yes, China invaded TIbet, and the territory belongs to China. The fact that China still retains Tibet while Japan could not hold on to Manchukuo and all other conquered territories shows that the PRC, though repressive, did a heck of a lot better than brutal Imperial Japan.

Uighurs: So I gather that you would like to see the Uighurs as freedom loving people? Let me give you a hint, the US, Europe, and certainly China would like to see the Uighurs under Chinese rule, for fear of a potentially ripe breeding ground for more terrorists. Take a look at the guest list at Guantanamo and I think you'll understand a wee bit better.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

China is bullying the Philippines, Japan, and Vietnam. Call it China's version of the Monroe Doctrine.

Hmm, so China is following imperialist doctrine from 200 years ago and that somehow makes it OK? Slavery was OK 200 years ago as well.

Yes, China is exerting her influence over Taiwan, in a much, much more diluted fashion to how Imperial Japan interfered with Korea. We all know what that led to. Point is, China is taking a much more tactful (and smarter) approach.

Tactful? They've threatened WAR over the Taiwan issue. How is this tactful? They've bullied countries around the world to refuse to acknowledge Taiwan. Recently they've bribed several nations to withdraw their recognition. This is tactful... how? This is not bullying... why?

Chinese citizens DO have restrictions on political and religious freedom, but certainly NOT individual freedoms. There are more restrictions on economic freedoms here in the states than in China. Trust me, I know.

Nonsense. "Trust me, I know" is just about the same level of justification used in this article. It doesn't make sense there and it doesn't make sense here.

Yes, China invaded TIbet, and the territory belongs to China. The fact that China still retains Tibet while Japan could not hold on to Manchukuo and all other conquered territories shows that the PRC, though repressive, did a heck of a lot better than brutal Imperial Japan.

This is called "Might makes Right" - fascism loves this doctrine. I don't think any nation should be applauded in the slightest for brutally invading a sovereign nation and systematically destroying its culture. In fact, it's exhibit #1 why the rest of the world SHOULD fear a rise in Chinese military might.

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" Call it China's version of the Monroe Doctrine. Strong countries have been known to act like this, think the USA..."

The Monroe Doctrine is a long outdated concept. As should be rational nations bullying other nations and inspiring potential arms races that rob societies of money better suited to energy, the environment and care of their citizens. Just because something was the case in the past, does not rationalize or justify it in the future. This thinking lacks forward vision.

Under your logic, I should envoke the policies of Gengis Khan and advocate an expansionst policy that would engulf and subserviate China. This makes no more rational sense than your invoking the Monroe Doctrine. Do please update your arguments to the 21st and not long past centuries.

Taiwan. Again you envoke an unsavory past of Japan's expansionism. Are you trying to argue that China's policies are out of revenge or based upon miliary imperialism? Because if you are, then I would agree and argue that you have well proven my point that China's military development represents a real and dangerous threat to Asia. The only thing tactful in China's policy for Taiwan is that her leaders have the good sense not to incite a war with Taiwan's ally the US should China elect a less "tactful" approach to threating a sovereign state.

" Chinese citizens DO have restrictions on political and religious freedom, but certainly NOT individual freedoms." Spoken like a true apologist. I think you need ask the ethnic minorities of China how much individual freedom they have when their local culture, belief systems and economic powers are subjugated by the Han majority in China. Or ask the Uyghurs about the infringements upon their right to carry out their cultural practices or to actually have autonomy in the place China promised they would have it. .

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The further fact that you summarily dismiss the inhumane practices of restrictions upon political and religious freedom further indicates just how out of touch with modern values China is. The restriction of religious freedom is inhumane and unjust. People should have the right to believe in what they wish to believe in. And in my case, support for this human right is coming from a non-religious person who strongly believes that others must have the right to hold religous beliefs if they wish.

Political restrictions have a long standing name. It is called totalitarianism, something China remains true to. Why? Because the government is afraid of the people who may decide to invoke that right to have greater freedom from a repressive government.

Again you invoke Japan's imperialism as a justification for China's imperialism. Thank you for once again proving my piont that China's intentions are militant and expansionistic and thus a threat to peace in Asia. I love it when an adversary proves my point so well. Well done.

As for the Uyghurs. These Sufi Muslims have long been noted for their peaceful culture. Now while there has been some uprising in recent years, it is largely in response to Han expansionism and their repression of Uyghur culture. The only people in the world who buy in that the Uyghurs are Islamist terrorists, are the Chinease propagandists. The rest of the world recognizes the plight of the Uyghurs along side other ethnic minorities repressed by Chinese totalitarianism.

So point made friend. China, modeled after 18th, 19th and 20th century examples of expansionism that you provided, is indeed a danger to the peace, prosperity and authonomy of Asia. China is dangerous and must be contained

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I guess Mushroom.... had no counter to these arguments.

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