Trump is help­ing Bei­jing win in S. China Sea

The Myanmar Times - Weekend - - World - OC­TO­BER 12, 2018 ROBERT D. KA­PLAN

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.”

Photo: AP

In this Oct. 6, 2018, file photo, Ju­ven­tus for­ward Cris­tiano Ron­aldo warms up prior to a soc­cer match against Udi­nese, in Udine, Italy.

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