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USA managing on China’s rise



Global Balance Of Power: U.S.'s Strategic Chess Move In Asia-Pacific

http://www.nation.com.pk/pakistan-news-newspaper-daily-english-online/colu
mns/09-Sep-2012/usa-managing-china-s-rise


The Nation
September 9, 2012


USA - managing China´s rise
By Imran Malik*


====

The USA´s strategic moves do indicate an emerging crescent of
containment around China. It ranges from Afghanistan in the west to
Arunachal Pradesh on the Sino-India border in the Himalayas in the centre
and onto the Pacific Ocean in the east where the US and its allies are
present with their formidable militaries.

China is reacting to counter this ominous and blatant attempt to hem it in
and circumscribe its strategic space for manoeuvre. It seeks credible
alternatives.

Geopolitically, it must garner succour and support from the Shanghai
Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which must be expanded immediately to
include Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India as full members. Such a move
may deter India from joining the US camp too eagerly.

====


The rapacious and insatiable global US juggernaut is on the prowl again.
Having wreaked death, devastation and misery on the peoples of the Greater
Middle East Region (GMER-Iraq), the South-Central Asian Region
(SCAR-Afghanistan, Pakistan), North Africa (Tunisia, Libya, Egypt), the
Arabian Peninsula (Yemen), the Mediterranean (Syria) and still keeping the
Persian Gulf sub-region (Iran) on tenterhooks, it has now set its sights
on the Asia Pacific Region (APR).

Its ambitions and intentions to "contain and manage the rise of China"
could not have been starker. Leon Panetta has declared the USA´s intent
to "shift, pivot or rebalance" to the APR by deploying 60 percent of
its naval assets there by 2020 - a major paradigm shift from the GMER/SCAR
to the APR - with menacing geopolitical and strategic connotations. 

While it indicates its geopolitical orientations for the future, it also
questions its capabilities to project power simultaneously in multiple
theatres of war. The US was generally expected to fight and win at least
two-and-a-half Major Regional Conflicts (MRCs) simultaneously - meaning
thereby that it could fight and win two major and one minor conflict in
different theatres of war at the same time. 

Some analysts now degrade that capability to about one-and-a-half MRC, for
a myriad of reasons. Would this mean that the US does not foresee fighting
a major war elsewhere (other than the APR) in the world circa 2020 and
beyond? Is it by choice or a genuine limitation? The US sees China´s
emerging economic military power as a major threat to its global and
national aspirations, and thus feels compelled to "contain and manage
its rise." 

It has made the preliminary geopolitical and strategic moves to manoeuvre
into an advantageous position in the APR. It is reconfirming existing
alliances and forging new ones. It can count upon known old allies such as
South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Australia (US troops are to be based in the
northern territories), Singapore, etc., while hoping to co-opt others like
the ASEAN membership, the South Pacific Islands, the Philippines, Vietnam,
Thailand, Indonesia and ominously India.

India´s importance lies in not only keeping the Chinese distracted in
the Himalayas, but also lets the US and its allies exploit the strategic
advantages its military assets and facilities at the Nicobar and Andaman
Islands provide. 

Furthermore, the Indian Peninsula jutting out so prominently into the
Indian Ocean allows great strategic oversight on all global East-West
trade/SLOCs. 

The two major likely areas of conflict in the APR (apart from Taiwan) are
the South China Sea and the Malacca Straits. The South China Sea issue is
gaining momentum with many regional countries, including China, laying
claims to the Spratly Islands archipelago and its mineral/fossil riches. 

The Malacca Straits (as opposed to the Lombok, Makassar and Mindoro
Straits and the Sibutu Passage) provide the most economical Sea Lines of
Communications (SLOCs). All the countries or economies of the APR thus
have a compulsion to keep it open and navigable at all times. And the only
naval power with the wherewithal to decisively control the Malacca Straits
and other SLOCs - is the US.

Could the South China Sea issue then become the flashpoint to initiate a
war with China to stunt its rapid growth into a global rival of the US?
Could the blockade of the SLOCs through the Malacca Straits (and others)
be the leverage that could force China to submit to US demands or
hegemony?

The USA´s strategic moves do indicate an emerging crescent of
containment around China. It ranges from Afghanistan in the west to
Arunachal Pradesh on the Sino-India border in the Himalayas in the centre
and onto the Pacific Ocean in the east where the US and its allies are
present with their formidable militaries.

China is reacting to counter this ominous and blatant attempt to hem it in
and circumscribe its strategic space for manoeuvre. It seeks credible
alternatives.

Geopolitically, it must garner succour and support from the Shanghai
Cooperation Organisation (SCO), which must be expanded immediately to
include Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and India as full members. Such a move
may deter India from joining the US camp too eagerly.

Further, an assertive and proactive SCO in the SCAR/AfPak region could
help nullify pressure on the Chinese western flank to a great extent. Its
`String of Pearls Strategy´ is designed to find viable alternatives to
the Malacca Straits and to seek a presence in the Indian Ocean. 

It must translate its proactive interests in Pakistan (Gwadar), Sri Lanka,
Maldives, Myanmar, etc. into tangible counter moves. It must also launch a
massive diplomatic initiative and particularly engage ASEAN, regional
countries and India to forestall their joining cause with the US.

Geo-economically, Pakistan is indispensable to the Chinese. Together they
could develop the North-South trade corridor linking Xinjiang province in
western China to Pakistani ports on the Arabian Sea. China´s presence in
Gwadar will bring it close to Iran and the Hormuz Straits. An extension of
the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline to China, an oil pipeline running parallel
to it and a railway line along the Karakoram Highway (KKH) would provide
viable and practical (though partial) alternatives to the SLOCs/Malacca
Straits. 

The Chinese already have an oil pipeline coming in from Kazakhstan into
western China. Geo-strategically, with China sitting at Gwadar/the Straits
of Hormuz (a strategic vulnerability for the US and its allies), it could
project power and gain an even more devastating leverage over the US and
its allies than they would have at the Malacca Straits.

When push comes to shove, this would give it a priceless and overwhelming
bargaining, and negotiating advantage over the US and it hapless allies. A
possible China-Pakistan-Iran nexus (SCO?) could actually be a geopolitical
and strategic game changer in the emerging scenario.

Furthermore, Pakistan could keep the bulk of Indian forces tied to its
borders and thus obviate meaningful hostilities against China in the
Arunachal Pradesh region. It makes for a great game of chess at the global
level. One only hopes that the US understands the regional and global
ramifications of its shenanigans in the APR. World beware.


*The writer is a retired brigadier and a former defence attaché to
Australia and New Zealand.

===================================== Stop


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