The Joint Sea-2016 started this Monday; that’s the fifth annual China-Russia naval drill, featuring stalwarts from both navies in action at the eastern waters of Zhanjiang, in Guangdong province, the HQ of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy Nanhai Fleet.
Tag Archives: Asia
The South China Sea is and will continue to be the ultimate geopolitical flashpoint of the young 21st century — way ahead of the Middle East or Russia’s western borderlands. No less than the future of Asia — as well as the East-West balance of power — is at stake.
To understand the Big Picture, we need to go back to 1890 when Alfred Mahan, then president of the US Naval College, wrote the seminal The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783. Mahan’s central thesis is that the US should go global in search of new markets, and protect these new trade routes through a network of naval bases.
That is the embryo of the US Empire of Bases — which de facto started after the Spanish-American war, over a century ago, when the US graduated to Pacific power status by annexing the Philippines, Hawaii and Guam.
Western — American and European — colonialism is strictly responsible for the current, incendiary sovereignty battle in the South China Sea. It’s the West that came up with most land borders — and maritime borders — of these states.
Not a day goes by without some sort of turmoil in the South China Sea. Let’s cut to the chase: war is not about to break out.
In a nutshell, the non-stop drama, as ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) diplomats told me, is all about“escalation-management protocols.” Translation: how to prevent any unilateral outburst that could be interpreted as warlike.
Compounding the problem is that ASEAN can’t seem to manage its own internal protocols. This past Tuesday offered a graphic illustration, after a special ASEAN-China Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Yuxi. First ASEAN issued a communiqué.
Beijing Goes Mobile in the South China Sea
Inviato da Maxthon Cloud Browser
Late at night, after sending a story to London, I often walk around the small neighbourhood of Delhi that has been home for nearly six years. Here, in the centre of this metropolis of 20 million people, the central point of this busy, restive region in which a quarter of the world’s population live, it is quiet.
There is the noise of traffic – this is Delhi, after all – and the barking of the feral dogs that own many of the narrower streets. Sometimes there is music. Perhaps a thudding Bollywood theme tune from a distant wedding, or even the discordant blare of a band. More often, it is a haunting Sufi-influenced qawwali, or a folk tune from distant villages, played on the tinny phones of the late-night watchmen who sit, swathed against what passes for nocturnal chill, outside every other door. But otherwise there is little noise, except the wailing horns of the trains, down at the mainline station only a few hundred yards away.
The U.S. is transfixed by its multibillion-dollar electoral circus. The European Union is paralyzed by austerity, fear of refugees, and now all-out jihad in the streets of Paris. So the West might be excused if it’s barely caught the echoes of a Chinese version of Roy Orbison’s “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” And that new Chinese dream even comes with a road map.
The crooner is President Xi Jinping and that road map is the ambitious, recently unveiled 13th Five-Year-Plan, or in the pop-video version, the Shisanwu. After years of explosive economic expansion, it sanctifies the country’s lower “new normal” gross domestic product growth rate of 6.5% a year through at least 2020.
As negotiators and ministers from the United States and 11 other Pacific Rim countries meet in Atlanta in an effort to finalize the details of the sweeping new Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some sober analysis is warranted. The biggest regional trade and investment agreement in history is not what it seems.
China continues to grow at a not too shabby 7%. And yet, because of the yuan devaluation and the sharp drop in the stock market, in most Western capitals the narrative switched to Armageddon descended over an economic model that generated, over the years, six-fold growth in Chinese GDP.Few are aware that Beijing, simultaneously, is engaged in a thrice titanic task; to shift its growth vector from exports and massive investment to services; to tackle the negative and/or self-satisfied role of state-owned enterprises; and to deflate at least three bubbles — debt, real estate speculation and the stock market — in the context of a virtual global economic stagnation.All this while there is virtually no Western coverage of the China-led Eurasian trade integration push, which will help to eventually consolidate the Middle Kingdom as the largest economy in the world.And that brings us to a crucial subplot in the Big Picture: Southeast Asia.
Pipelineistan – the prime Eurasian energy chessboard — never sleeps. Recently, it’s Russia that has scored big on all fronts; two monster gas deals sealed with China last year; the launch of Turk Stream replacing South Stream; and the doubling of Nord Stream to Germany.
Now, with the possibility of sanctions on Iran finally vanishing by late 2015/early 2016, all elements will be in place for the revival of one of Pipelineistan’s most spectacular soap operas, which I have been following for years; the competition between the IP (Iran-Pakistan) and TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) gas pipelines.
This year, the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations is expected to make the ASEAN Economic Community a reality. It is envisioned as a single common market and production base that leads to the freer flow of goods, services, investment capital and skilled labor in the region, tying the member countries into a closely shared destiny.
But what is going on in the Bay of Bengal right now makes that vision a mockery. Arguably the worst refugee crisis since the exodus of boat people from Vietnam in the 1970s is exploding on the shores of ASEAN members while they largely ignore it. The events have highlighted what has been described as “the alarmingly inept regional response to the longstanding refugee problem.” ASEAN still lacks a regional framework on refugees, and only two ASEAN member states have signed onto the UN Refugee Convention.
NEW YORK – The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are poised to hold their annual meetings, but the big news in global economic governance will not be made in Washington DC in the coming days. Indeed, that news was made last month, when the United Kingdom, Germany, France, and Italy joined more than 30 other countries as founding members of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). The $50 billion AIIB, launched by China, will help meet Asia’s enormous infrastructure needs, which are well beyond the capacity of today’s institutional arrangements to finance.