US Pacific Hegemony vs. a Rising China
By Tony Cartalucci
October 18, 2015 "Information
Clearing House" - The complexity and
history behind the current tensions in Asia Pacific are belied by
simplistic narratives underpinned by superficial nationalism.
China's portrayal across the Western media as a regional "bully"
versus its victims across Southeast Asia is dividing the general
public down two sides of a predictable line.
On one side are those who welcome the rise of
China as a counterbalance for longstanding Western hegemony across
Asia Pacific, on the other are those that fear China will simply
replace a "benevolent" Western hegemony with its own brand of
regional domination.Hong Kong was
seized during the Opium Wars, so called because they were fought
amid attempts by China to shut down the highly destructive opium
trade the British were carrying out in their territory.
Somewhere in the middle lies the truth, but to arrive there, one
must understand the true nature of the unfolding, and very
unnecessary tensions in the South China Sea.
The Pacific, and in particular much of China and Southeast Asia, was
under the control of colonial European powers with Britain
controlling Malaysia, Myanmar (then called Burma), and parts of
China, and France controlling Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos.
British "gunboat diplomacy," the empire wrestled concessions
resembling what would today pass as a highly unpopular "free trade
agreement" from Thailand (then called Siam), as well as from China,
including the seizure of Hong Kong. There is literally a street in
Hong Kong still named "Possession Street" marking the site where the
British first surveyed their newly seized lands, beginning a century
and a half of occupation.
The World Wars saw a significant reduction of Western power and
influence across Asia Pacific. While the United States would retain
hegemony over Japan and the Philippines, many other nations first
ejected their colonial occupiers, then established independent
Modern Western Hegemony
The Vietnam War fought between the 1950's and 1970's was not only an
attempt to maintain Western hegemony over Indochina, but admittedly
an attempt to ultimately encircle and contain China. Within the
so-called “Pentagon Papers” released in 1969, it was revealed that
the conflict was one part of a greater strategy aimed at containing
and controlling China.
important quotes from these papers reveal this strategy. It
states first that:
…the February decision to bomb North Vietnam
and the July approval of Phase I deployments make sense only if
they are in support of a long-run United States policy to
It also claims:
China—like Germany in 1917, like Germany in
the West and Japan in the East in the late 30′s, and like the
USSR in 1947—looms as a major power threatening to undercut our
importance and effectiveness in the world and, more remotely but
more menacingly, to organize all of Asia against us.
Finally, it outlines the immense regional theater the
US was engaged in against China at the time by stating:
...there are three fronts to a long-run effort
to contain China (realizing that the USSR “contains” China on
the north and northwest): (a) the Japan-Korea front; (b) the
India-Pakistan front; and (c) the Southeast Asia front.
The Pentagon Papers in fact provide for us today the
context with which to properly view current tensions in Asia
The US still to this day maintains its "Japan-Korea front" against
China, with US troops literally stationed in both nations.
Across Southeast Asia, the United States through covert subversion
has attempted to string together a supranational bloc constructed by
obedient client regimes. These efforts can be best seen with US
support through an extensive network of nongovernmental
organizations (NGOs) of Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar, Anwar Ibrahim
in Malaysia, and the Shinawatra dynasty in Thailand. The
Philippines have remained subservient to the will of Wall Street and
Washington more or less for over a century, while Vietnam has been
witnessing a steady increase
in US-backed destabilization.
"Gunboat diplomacy" has been replaced by the "color
revolution" model. Nations that refuse to capitulate are
overthrown by opposition movements cultivated and controlled
by Wall Street, Washington, London, and Brussels.
In Pakistan, political subversion and armed violence has been used
in key strategic locations to disrupt Chinese investments including
at Gwadar Port
and throughout the Pakistani province of Baluchistan.
And within China itself, the United States has resorted to political
subversion in Tibet
and Hong Kong, while backing
armed terrorism and separatism in China's Xinjiang region.
While the US,
through its "pivot toward Asia," claims American exceptionalism
is necessary to maintain peace and stability thousands of miles from
its own borders for the people of Asia, it is clear that much of the
chaos unfolding across Asia is the work of the United States itself.
It is the proverbial "windshield repair shop" breaking car windows
at night, then making a fortune fixing them by day.
China Strikes Back
China's journey toward becoming a regional power broker has been
different than that of the Anglo-Americans. It has not invaded its
neighbors nor erected a massive, region-wide network of subversive
NGOs to topple governments under the guise of "popular revolutions."
Instead, it has gained power and influence through economic and
Carriers that don't sink. China is building and expanding
islands throughout the South China Sea, creating a regional
strategic capacity that the US can neither match nor
challenge. The age of Ango-Americans minding Asia's business
is drawing to an end. And in a current world order where
"might makes right," the West hasn't a leg to stand on in
condemning Beijing's moves.
It trades and deals throughout the region, as well as invests and
It is also is building up its ability to eventually oust the West
altogether from the region. Corporate think-tank RAND recently
published a piece titled, "China's
Airfield Construction at Fiery Cross Reef in Context: Catch-Up or
Coercion?" In it, it's argued that China's construction and
expansion of islands throughout the South China Sea is tantamount to
In reality, China is constructing defensive capabilities that will
render Western fleets moot. An island cannot be sunk or interdicted
by US ships. Once constructed, manned, and operational, it is a
permanent strategic fixture that is for all intents and purposes
incontestable save for a full-scale invasion amid total war.
Further, the bases give Chinese ships an operational edge over
American vessels, providing logistical support in the South China
Sea where the US has none. It is displacing the US both
operationally and strategically, and if Beijing plays its cards
right, displacing it diplomatically as well.
Should China steer away from attempts to snare it in a regional
confrontation, and use its new capabilities to maintain safety,
peace, and stability in every real sense as the US claims to, the
entire purpose of Western meddling in Asia Pacific will be
undermined and eventually collapse. The West will be resigned to
playing a role proportional to its proximity to the region - or in
other words - a negligible role.
Southeast Asia's Real Challenge
China's rising power is not entirely benign. Even for proponents of
a rising China, it must be realized that power always has the
potential to be abused, and most likely will be if a regional
military and economic balance is not struck.
The real challenge facing Southeast Asia is how to strike that
balance without sacrificing its sovereignty to foreign interests
like the United States. The maintenance of formidable armies and
navies throughout Southeast Asia, along with the preservation of
national identities will prevent significant conflicts before they
start. National economies throughout Asia that are not overly
dependent on imports or exports either to China or the West can
better defend their own socioeconomic and regional interests.
Above all, there needs to be a reluctance to allow the United States
to pit the nations of Southeast Asia either against themselves or
against China in yet another elementary example of imperial divide
and conquer. And while this challenge is that of the nations of
Southeast Asia, who dangerously gravitate toward a EU-style system
(ASEAN) apparently indifferent to the monumental failure the EU
itself has become, Beijing itself must recognize and defuse the
tensions the United States is fanning the flames of.
China's patient, systematic displacement of the United States from
the region will inevitably pay off. Those in the region who believe
depending on the United States is a viable strategy in keeping China
in check are setting themselves and the region up for failure.
Those that hold the best interests of each nation in Asia at heart
are those nations themselves and they alone. Neither through
supranational interdependent blocs, nor through foreign interests
transforming regions into defacto protectorates, can Asia search for
its future. Despite the rhetoric underpinning America's "pivot
toward Asia," only through a multipolar world where nations pursue
their own national sovereignty and respect those of others -
maintained through military and socioeconomic balance - can true
peace and stability be found and maintained.
Tony Cartalucci, Bangkok-based geopolitical
researcher and writer, especially for the online magazine“New
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