Monday, 24 August 2015

China and the New Global Great Game for Strategic Control in Eurasia.

Rising Tensions in East Asia.

Tensions between Japan and China have risen recently with the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War Two in Asia. Unsurprisingly, Japan's Shinzo Abe turned down an invitation to attend victory events in Beijing on September 3 to celebrate "a war of resistance against Japanese aggression"

The parades which will rumble through the Chinese capital will include 12,000 troops and nuclear misiles. This is clearly meant to impress upon Japan China's military power and the fact that, unlike in the last major war between 1937 and 1945, China in in 2015 is an Asian military superpower.

The real issue, in which growing nationalism is as much a symptom as a further stimulus towards potential war in East Asia, is oil. China asserting its claims to islands in the East and South China Seas in part in response to US efforts to assert naval control over sea lanes from the Middle East to Asia.

The grand design is to 'contain' China and be in a position to throttle its economy should China challenge Washington's position as the globe's biggest economy and as a military superpower. As both have nuclear weapons, using the threat of an oil cut off to its economy is the preferred tool of coercion.

As the US shifts the weight of its military expenditure east away from the Greater Middle East-hence the nuclear deal with Iran-towards Asia, the US has been developing bilateral military ties with a chain of maritime powers to China's eastern seaboard while trying to block China's land based 'March West'.

Checking China and Iran in Afghanistan.

The retention of Bagram air base and the continued US war in Afghanistan is part of a strategy of control to prevent it becoming too heavily influenced by China and Iran who have, much to the annoyance of Washington, gave the go-ahead for constructing a gas pipeline from Iran to Pakistan.

The main reason for the prolonging the Afghanistan War has nothing to do with the 'war on terror' or women's rights and all the rest of the public diplomacy dissimulation uncritically absorbed and recycled in the western media. A major geopolitical goal is to get the TAPI pipeline constructed as an alternative to the IP.

Given that energy would flow from Iran to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, the US has all the more reason to build up its control over the sea lanes between the Persian Gulf to the South China Sea. The sanction on Iran were less to do with any nuclear weapon threat than with strategic control over resources

That much is clear as Washington is still threatening sanctions to stop any unwelcome and “significant support to Iran’s energy sector, such as providing significant investment or technology”.It fears China would be able to prize Pakistan away from the US and draw it and Iran firmly towards closer alignment with Beijing.

The Significance of Closer Ties between China and Myanmar.

China's ability to exert strategic influence between the Greater Middle East and South East Asia increased dramatically also through the construction of the new China-Myanmar oil gas pipeline. This has allowed China to reduce dependence of oil tanker routes via the Straits of Malacca between Malaysia and Indonesia.

This new energy highway gives China the upper hand over Japan and South Korea when it comes to ensuring 'energy security' and an additional reason why Japan in particular wants to build up its military capacity and so expand is global role and ability to counter China's geopolitical energy strategies.

Turkey Plays a Dangerous Games with China in Xinjiang.
“…East Turkestan is not only the home of the Turkic peoples, but it is also the cradle of Turkic history, civilization and culture…the martyrs of East Turkestan are our own martyrs…may their struggle always be remembered. Today the culture of the people of East Turkestan is being systematically sinocized.”-  Erdogan as Mayor of Istanbul in 1995
Japan has sought to restore older historic strategic ties with Turkey and develop new strategic ties in the fields of nuclear technology and science. But Japan has a history of having aligned with pro-Ottoman forces in Turkey keen on promoting Uighur separatism in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang.

Xinjiang literally means 'New Land' in Chinese and has always been a strategic crossroads between West and East. It also has a large population of Turkic Uighurs that Turkey's President Erdogan has claimed is oppressed and deserving of Ankara's backing as part of his imperial neo-Ottoman strategy.

Xinjiang has been increasingly settled with Han Chinese since Mao's Communist state was created in 1949 and control extended into the western frontier regions. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union it has acted as a vital oil and gas transit route for Central Asian gas pumped through from Kazakhstan.

The pipeline deals, pushed through in the early 2000s, came at the same time as the upsurge in Islamist terrorism in the region that gained global attention after the 9/11 attacks on New York. Thereafter, China started to ratchet up its own 'war on terror' on Uighur groups wanting autonomy or independence from Beijing.

Beijing has become suspicious that Turkey could be encouraging Islamist Uighur separatists as part of a strategy to upgrade its bargaining power and influence over the oil of Kurdistan which China is vying for. It is thought Erdogan could be covertly facilitating the movement of Islamists from Syria and Turkey into Xinjiang.

Since 2011 with President Obama's Pivot to Asia, Erdogan has also been pivoting himself east as well. He has shifted his stance on what is referred to as East Turkestan. He provocatively called China's suppression of Uighur uprising in 2009 "a kind of genocide". Moreover, as Christina Lim comments,
'Using China’s recent counter-terrorism measures as an excuse to refer Beijing to the UN for human rights violations, Ankara is resorting to legal warfare, or “lawfare”, to de-legitimize the Chinese government’s sovereignty over its territory. Additionally, Ankara’s recruitment for Syria’s anti-Assad groups that include Uyghur separatists is fanning insurgency in Xinjiang, risking escalation of broader conflict between Ankara and Beijing.
In November 2014 Uighurs from Xinjiang were caught by the Chinese authorities along with ten Turkish citizens provided with  false passports passports so they could go across to fight in Syria, showing a terrorist network that stretches through northern Iraq into the Caucasus and deep into Central Asia.

Turkey is thought to have smuggled Uighur separatists from Xinjiang into Turkey and allowed them to fight for Islamic State in Syria and Iraq as a means to overthrow Assad and counter Iranian influence via its Shi'ite militia proxy forces. China and Iran have thus vied for favour with the Kurds.

In turn, there is evidence China has supplied Kurdish forces in Iraq with arms. Ankara's recruitment of Chinese Uighurs as cannon fodder for ISIS could lead China to not only support the Kurds but even the PKK, the radical Kurdish movement Turkey started bombing in late July 2015 after a deal with the US.

It would be an extremely dangerous geopolitical situation in which the easternmost member of NATO is engaged in a war against a force covertly backed by China.The PKK have been strategically aligned with Assad in Damascus whose main Great Power ally is Russia which has aligned closer to China over Ukraine.

Consequently, China and Russia sought to reaffirm their military ties and mutual interests in being the predominant powers in Eurasia through the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), designed to check NATO expansion into post-Soviet space and hence Western influence in Central Asia.

China and Russia have also aimed at extending their influence off Syria in the Eastern Mediterranean through joint naval manouevres or 'war games'. As the US pursues a futile geopolitical fantasy of backing another "moderate" CIA trained rebel force, the Turkish assault open up opportunities for China.

As Christina Lim puts it , 'with the new US-Turkish alliance and support for Turkey’s Kurdish policy, the Kurds may now find a new ally with a rising China in the Middle East.' The deal with Turkey has effectively led to many Kurds regarding them as bad allies with a long history of betraying their cause.

The danger in moving in as patron of the Kurds in Syria and Iraq, is Turkey, already facing an insurgency in the south-east Kurdish regions could step up its support for Chinese Uyghur jihadists and, it turn, result in China moving in further to support the Kurds, its oil interests in Erbil and combat jihadism.

The TAPI Pipeline Draws India in to Counter Chinese Dominance in Central Asia.

The TAPI pipeline is backed by the US. It would run through Pakistan and link up with India, thus leaving Iran out and ensuring its export of gas is not used to extend its geopolitical interests in ways that displease Washington and that might get Saudi Arabia to ratchet up its support for Sunni jihadists in Afghanistan.

The US insists on TAPI as it would increase India's bilateral economic partnerships with Turkmenistan and hence other Central Asian oil and gas rich states "creating the possibility of new alliance formations that would help ensure that Central Asia would not become subject to some form of Sino-Russian joint hegemony".

The US Builds Up its Military Presence in South Korea.

Courting India is one way of rebalancing against China as is arming Japan and building a naval base in Jeju South Korea. Apart from making North Korea even more paranoid than it usually is, the naval base will take in US nuclear submarines. Aegis missiles will be positioned just 300km from mainland China.

The missiles are only 500km away from China's huge commercial city of Shanghai. It would not take much imagination to understand the panic that would ensue in Washington if China were to situate a huge new naval base in Nicaragua or Venezuela to protect its strategic control over oil resources.

Aegis missiles are designed to intercept incoming missiles and so give the upper hand over China to the US and its regional allies regarding offensive missile capabilities against 'the Middle Kingdom'. Even if ostensibly 'defensive' the strategy is offensive and has thereby accelerated the arms race in Asia.

China fears encirclement because the US has been so diplomatically ambiguous about its strategy to contend control over the 'Eurasian Heartland', claiming is is devoted to working in military partnership with China, on the one hand, while seeming to be building up a coalition of states around it on the other.

The threat of hostile states being a position to snap the energy lifelines its economy requires has made it all the more insistent on facing down rival Japanese claims to the Diaoyu/ Senkaku island as these are estimated to hold 160 billion barrels of oil, enough oil to keep China running for 45 years.

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