Trump is helping Beijing win in S. China Sea
FOR years now, China has been at war against the United States in the South China Sea – except Washington didn’t notice until the process was well underway. The Chinese way of war – modeled after the philosopher of middle antiquity, Sun Tzu – is to win without ever having to fight. Thus the Chinese have been proceeding by microsteps: reclaim an island here, build a runway there, install a missile battery in a third place, deploy an oil-exploration rig temporarily in disputed waters, establish a governorate and so on. Each step is designed to create a small fact, but without eliciting a military response from the other side, since the Chinese know they may be a generation away from matching the US Navy and Air Force in fighting capability.
The latest chapter in this process occurred earlier this month, when a Chinese warship dangerously came within 45 yards of the USS Decatur, a guided missile destroyer, in the vicinity of the Gaven Reefs.
China is not a rogue state and its policy makes perfect sense, given its legitimate geopolitical aims. Beijing’s approach to the South China Sea is quite comparable to the United States’ approach to the Caribbean during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when it sought to establish strategic dominance over its adjacent sea. Domination of the Caribbean gave the United States effective control over the Western Hemisphere, allowing it to pivotally affect the balance of power in the Eastern Hemisphere throughout the 20th century. Chinese domination of the South China Sea in the 21st century will do no less for China.
Effective control of the South China Sea will give China unfettered access to the wider Pacific, permit it to further soften up Taiwan – the northern boundary of the South China Sea – and, most important, make it a two-ocean naval power. Indeed, the South China Sea is the gateway to the Indian Ocean – the 21st century’s most critical body of water, which functions as the global energy interstate connecting the hydrocarbon fields of the Middle East with the middle-class conurbations of East Asia. China’s military actions in the South China Sea are inseparable from its commercial empire-building across the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal and the eastern Mediterranean.
The Chinese viewpoint From the Chinese viewpoint, though, the United States is the aggressive hegemon. After all, the US Navy sails its warships from North America to the faraway South China Sea, which, from China’s geographical reference point, is its home waters – just as the Caribbean Sea is to Americans. The very fact that the US Coast Guard clusters ships in and around the Caribbean demonstrates how the United States, in a very real psychological sense, takes ownership of it. The Chinese, believing similarly, have coastguard vessels as well as a fishing fleet in the South China Sea region.
The United States must face up to an important fact: the western Pacific is no longer a uni-polar American naval lake, as it was for decades after World War II. The return of China to the status of a great power ensures a more complicated multi-polar situation. The United States must make at least some room for Chinese air and naval power in the Indo-pacific region. How much room is the key question.
Remember that the United States’ principal allies bordering the South China Sea – Vietnam and the Philippines – have no choice but to get along with a much larger, economically dominant and more proximate China. They require the United States as a balancer against China, not as an outright enemy of it. They know the United States has a robust military presence in Asia ultimately by choice – making its policies uncertain – whereas China is the region’s central organising principle.
Trump has communicated more uncertainty in the minds of our Asian allies than any previous US leader of modern times. This might force them to conclude separate understandings with China. Such a process will be insidious, rarely admitted and almost never on the front pages. Yet one day, the US will wake up and realise that Asia has irrevocably changed.
Indeed, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ security strategy in the South China Sea is being undermined by Trump’s trade policies. Don’t believe for a moment that the United States can use trade as a lever against China in the South China Sea, where Beijing has a well-grounded, long-term grand strategy, as opposed to Trump’s zigzagging whims.
US has only one defence Unless the United States wants a shooting war in the South China Sea, its only defense against China’s policy of gradual encroachment is a US system of free trade and democratic alliance-building that buttresses its military posture and counters China’s own imperial system. Power is not only military and economic, but moral. And by “moral” I do not, in this instance, mean humanitarian or moralistic. I mean something harder: the constancy of one’s word so that allies can depend upon you. Only with that will littoral states such as Vietnam and the Philippines – to say nothing of Taiwan and South Korea – see it in their own interests to keep a safe distance from China.
In sum, there is a direct contradiction between Trump’s aggressive economic nationalism and his administration’s commitment to defend the South China Sea. The South China Sea is not the United States’ home waters; it is China’s. Geography still matters. And because the United States is so far away, its only hope is to offer an uplifting regional vision that anchors its military one.
– Washington Post
‘China’s military actions in the South China Sea are inseparable from its commercial empirebuilding across the Indian Ocean to the Suez Canal and the eastern Mediterranean.’
IT’S not only Real Madrid that has to adapt to life without Cristiano Ronaldo.
Portugal’s national soccer team also has had to cope without the star forward as he takes a break from international duty following his transfer to Juventus and amid a rape allegation against him.
Ronaldo hasn’t been called up for the national team since the World Cup, and the Portuguese soccer federation has already said he also will not be considered for upcoming international matches later this year.
Portugal, which won the European Championship in 2016 for its first major title, plays at Poland on Thursday in the UEFA Nations League, its third match without Ronaldo since the World Cup tournament in Russia. The team will face Scotland in a friendly on Sunday.
“The best in the world remains the best in the world, but he is not here and we have to focus on those who are,” Portugal coach Fernando Santos said Wednesday. “I fully trust the players who are here and they will come through for us.”
Santos said Ronaldo remained fully committed to the national team, after he skipped the team’s first two matches after the World Cup to rest following a busy off-season that included his move from Real Madrid to Juventus.
Santos had said Ronaldo was still settling in with the Italian club and needed time to focus on that.
Last week, Santos did not give details for not including Ronaldo in the team, saying the decision was made after a three-way conversation between him, the player and the head of the Portuguese soccer federation.
The squad announcement came after news that Ronaldo is dealing with a rape allegation in the United States, although Santos did not comment on the player’s state of mind nor did he say the decision had anything to do with off-the-field issues.
Santos’ problem now is how to get his team working without Ronaldo. And that’s where Andre Silva comes in. The 22-year-old striker, considered to be the perfect wingman for Ronaldo in Portugal’s attack, has been doing just fine by himself this season. He was crucial in the team’s opening win against Italy in the Nations League last month, scoring the second-half winner that left Portugal at the top of Group 3 in League A of Europe’s newest competition.
A victory on Thursday won’t yet secure Portugal a spot in the final four of the Nations League in June, but it will keep the team from being relegated to the second-tier League B.
Portugal leads Group 3 with three points, two more than both Poland and Italy. Italy has already played twice, losing at Portugal and drawing against Poland at home.
“If we win this match it will be a big step for us,” said Santos, who turned 64 on Wednesday and is about to mark his four-year anniversary with the national team. “We are very motivated to make it to the final four.”
In this Oct. 6, 2018, file photo, Juventus forward Cristiano Ronaldo warms up prior to a soccer match against Udinese, in Udine, Italy.