By Ramon Orosa
The Vietnam violence does not come as a surprise. While seemingly symbiotic, having worked together for many years in Vietnam’s fight for independence and being somewhat conjoined by having similar ideologies, and finally adopting their ideology to allow greater economic freedoms, I think there is some tendency to under estimate the fierce independence of the Vietnamese and their determination to protect their national interests from China’s escalating attempt at robbery, no matter how China might defensively view it’s actions.
They have not abandoned a centralized autocratic form of governance and when it is not damaging to her interests, Vietnam is likely to be accommodative of China’s “requests” but there is a clear point when Vietnam will no longer accommodate China. The sea grab of China is one of them. The violence is meant to send a loud and clear message to China that her Middle Ages world view needs to be seriously updated and revised. The world is no longer the same and while China has prospered greatly in the last 50 years, it is not sufficient reason to look at the other countries that are her neighbors as vassals that need to pay tribute to China as an overlord.
In modern times, China has decided to restore that tribute paying practice by the attempt to extend her sovereignty over the seas and extend, because she thinks no one can challenge her, to the virtual shores of the neighboring countries. She looks with so much condescension on her neighbors, viewing herself as a superior race to which all others must bow and acquiesce. Witness her response to statements from the US essentially telling the US to keep out- this is our turf and we are free to do whatsoever we wish including rewriting all the boundaries of neighboring nations. First the seas, and then virtual takeovers of the involved nations.
This is why she insists that bilateral discussions are the only way to resolve this whole issue. First, bilateral discussions will weaken any resistance, because China’s economic size and military might are unmatchable by any of the neighboring countries and so the negotiations would be truly one sided. Second, China’s twin objectives are simply to have everyone accept what is in the seas are theirs and if you accept that, you may do whatever you wish there provided we get the lion’s share of the riches in the water and the sea beds at the bottom. That is your tribute to your overlord and you still get some of the riches but you grow at our discretion.
I suppose some of the thinking in terms of timing was based on their assessment that the US is a spent force that would be unwilling to take on China in a confrontation in the area and that the American public, devastated by the economic problems of the last 5 years and the accumulated debts of their Middle Eastern adventures since 9/11, would not be supportive.
But, at best, the world view of China is barbaric and has absolutely no place in the modern world. In some way, some might even be able to say that because it is race discriminative, China is today’s resurrection of nazi, gestapo type national policy. The problem is that China essentially plans long term and in this case, hopes to wear out all of the other affected nations, including the US. It is what I interpret as China’s beginning war versus the world. All of her alliances are strategic, serving her political, commercial and military interests. She has no real allies, just nations under her dominance. And when, in her estimation, the payoff is inestimable, just as the potential riches of the South Seas are, she will attempt to grab whatever can be grabbed.
This sea grab of China is truly unconscionable and in a way, I suggest that cowardice is behind the statements of the US that they are neutral in terms of the disputatious grab being done by China. What could be more unlawful, unreasonable if not unconscionable than what China is doing? This is what China is relying on. That is why she continues to expand her South Seas presence while America does nothing but talk.
Even if US stations forces in Palawan, it will take several years before any decent facility can be constructed. In those years of construction, China will be expanding her presence so that by the time the US is able to establish herself, China would already have built a mighty presence in the area she is grabbing. The problem then is how to get her out without a major confrontation. It seems to me it would probably be too late. I would think it is time not just for port visits by American naval forces, but a temporary placement in the disputed areas of some of those vessels and aircraft that constantly move and shadow the Chinese vessels.
Some might ask, why China is reclaiming land and building an airfield? Because of the distance from China’s coastline to the disputed area so she can station both naval and air forces and not run out of fuel or supplies should there be combat.
What China may not have anticipated was the protest reactions and attacks on Chinese interests in Vietnam. She also did not expect our forces to arrest the fishermen who were clearly trespassing and poaching endangered species of sea life in the area. So the response has been somewhat muted. What China fails to understand is that times have changed, the world has changed and while she has much military might, she will have to do a whole lot of killing to subdue the neighboring nations and make a pariah of herself in the world. Does she mind? I doubt it and that is what is truly unfortunate about this situation.