Small wars loom large on China's horizon
By Jens Kastner
Broad hints have been coming out of China that the country might start small-scale military strikes over disputed waters that are believed to hold rich energy reserves. The consequences of such endeavors would be tolerable to Beijing, international experts say.
Experts interviewed by Asia Times Online agreed that China would likely meet future objectives with limited military strikes.
According to Steve Tsang, director of the University of Nottingham's China Policy Institute, much will depend on what the small war is about, how it is conducted and against which country. Tsang believes the South Koreans won't be the target despite a recent war of words that erupted after the chief of China's State Oceanic Administration claimed that Leodo Reef, a submerged rock off South Korea's resort island of Jeju, is almost certainly part of China's "jurisdictional waters". Beijing refers to the rock as Suyan Reef.
"China starting even a limited military operation against South Korea would be too serious to be tolerated by anyone," Tsang said. "The US would have to take a strong position and immediate action at the United Nations Security Council to impose a ceasefire," he added.
However, a minor military confrontation against Vietnam or the Philippines over the disputed atolls in the South China Sea was a very different matter, Tsang argued. "Although China couldn't take an easy victory against Vietnam for granted, and such wars will be gravely disturbing in Southeast Asia and the rest of East Asia, they will be manageable. If the confrontation would be short and limited, the immediate impact wouldn't be very significant."
Tsang warned, however, that a Chinese attack on Vietnam or the Philippines would strengthen the willingness of countries in Southeast Asia cooperate with the United States.
"But fundamentally there is not much those countries can do to counter an assertive China."
Tsang then took on the notion that the existing mutual defense treaty between the Philippines and the US leaves the Southeast Asian country "immune" to a brief Chinese attack.
"You need to check the terms of the treaty. The US government needs to consider [a military attack against the Philippines] as a serious security matter for which it needs to respond, for which time is required to deliberate an appropriate response," Tsang said. "Nothing will happen if the incident is over before the matter reaches congress for a serious debate."
James Holmes, an associate professor of strategy at the US Naval War College, says Beijing would likely get away with it if the PLA were to attack the Philippines or Vietnam.
"Beijing would keep any small war as small and out-of-sight as possible. The superiority of its fleet vis-a-vis Southeast Asian militaries, and the advent of new shore-based weaponry like the anti-ship ballistic missile, give China a strong 'recessed deterrent' in times of conflict
," Holmes said.
He explained that China could hold its major combat platforms in reserve while seeking its goals with relatively innocuous, lightly armed vessels from its maritime security services, which are its equivalents to a coast guard.
"Southeast Asian navies might challenge these ships, but they would do so in full knowledge that People's Liberation Army could deploy vastly superior sea power should they try it
," Holmes said.
Economists also don't see too many obstacles for a small energy war against one China's Southeast Asian neighbors.
"Stock markets would overreact around the world in the short term - say a few days," said Ronald A Edwards, an expert on China's political economy at Tamkang University in Taiwan.
"But there would be little if any effect in terms of affecting this year's inflation, employment or output of any country other than the one attacked by China."
Edwards concluded on a disturbing note. He argued that the outcome of the nine-day-long Russian-Georgian war in 2008, in which Russia used overwhelming force to push Georgia out of South Ossetia, earning Western condemnation, could be taken as an indicator on whether China's economy would pay dearly for the PLA's military adventures.
"The brief Russian war with Georgia comes to mind as a very good example for comparison," Edwards said. "While the news coverage of this was headlines everywhere for a couple weeks, there were no major economic effects in countries other than Georgia in August of 2008 or thereafter."
Asia Times Online :: Small wars loom large on China's horizon
Not only Vietnam and Philippines, but india wants to be crushed by Chinese military too!
China and its support to Pak main threats: Army
New Delhi: China's military modernisation and its continued support to Pakistan, including infrastructure development in Northern Areas, were listed by the Army as the major threats faced by the country.
In a detailed presentation on demands for grants before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence, Army Vice Chief Lieutenant General SK Singh also mentioned the continued instability in Pakistan and the terrorist infrastructure there as a major security challenge facing the country, sources said.
Terming China as one of the major threats, the Army in its presentation mentioned Beijing's unresolved boundary issue with India, its infrastructure development in Tibet and inroads into immediate neighbourhood as the reasons behind its thinking.
China's politico-military assertiveness and support to Pakistan including infrastructure development in Northern Areas were also cited in the 22-page presentation.
Terming Pakistan as the "epicentre of terror", the presentation said it was continuing its support to the proxy war against India and was keeping the terrorist infrastructure on its soil intact.
The Army told the MPs that it desired to prevent wars through deterrence and it should have the capability to calibrate a proactive response to a war.
The Army also came up with a tentative modernisation plan for the next fiscal in which it briefed about the allocation to its different arms.
China and its support to Pak main threats: Army - India News - IBNLive