Arts & Culture 
 Human Rights 
 U.S. Asian Policy 

Home > East Asia > 

Check China's military expansion
Paul Lin

Around the time of the passage of the "Anti-Secession" Law, China showed that it was concerned about Taiwan and the international community's reaction to the law by trying to create an "atmosphere of peace."

Chinese Communist Party Secretary-General Hu Jintao's four-point guideline does not mention military force, and Premier Wen Jiabao made similar remarks.

But the law openly praises the use of non-peaceful means, laying bare the hypocrisy of the Chinese leaders.

This, however, is not the crux of the problem. Looking at the Chinese military and public opinion, we see the ghosts of war behind this law, which doesn't merely involve Taiwan.

It involves global peace, and I am sure that is the reason the international community has reacted with such vehement condemnation.

On March 5, Guo Boxiong -- the vice chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) who always gave former CMC chairman Jiang Zemin his full support before Jiang's resignation in September last year -- said that he would never promise to forego the use of military force.

Other military leaders made similar statements.

When Jiang during the National People's Congress resigned from his last post as chairman of the National Military Commission, the media made a big thing of Jiang's parting words to Hu: "If we are to take military action against Taiwan, then the sooner it is done, the better."

But what we should pay most attention to is the fact that Wen Zongren, political commissar of China's Academy of Military Sciences, has pointed out that the Anti-Secession Law, in addition to helping resolve the Taiwan issue, has a deeper significance in that it breaks through blockades implemented by certain international forces which affect China's maritime security.

Wen also believes that the law is an important expression of China's maritime development strategy, and that this is the only way that China will be able to truly rise to its destined prominence.

These statements tell us that for China, the Taiwan issue is not a matter of unification or independence, but rather of military expansion and therefore an issue that must be solved for a Chinese rising.

China's leaders are using this "rising" as a "theory" aimed at arousing nationalist fervor among its public, although it distorts reality in many cases.

If you really want to talk about a "rising," then Japan comes before China.

From its defeat in World War II, Japan has risen from the ashes without any reliance on military power, instead relying only on its own economic power to become the world's second largest economy.

If Japan with its anti-war Constitution and liberal economy could rise up, we have to ask ourselves why China must rely on military force to achieve the same thing.

The rise of the Japanese economy also led the US to put forward the "Japan Threat" theory, particularly in the late 1980s.

But have either the US or Japan ever considered engaging in war because of it? Absolutely not.

Then why is it that China feels the need to back its economic rise with military force? Has any other country ever prevented Chinese ships from engaging in trade?

Has anyone ever made a blockade to prevent Chinese ships leaving their ports?

It seems that China's belief that the US is opposed to its development has, in addition to making it paranoid, also given it cause to conceal its own military expansionist ambitions.

Ever since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, the US has maintained a policy of containment as far as China is concerned, rather than one of attack.

In contrast, China has been consistent in its expansionism. China has followed its expansionist policy in the name of the "Global Revolution," the Korean war being a classic example.

As in the case of the Korean war, the US was also forced to get involved in the Vietnam war, and it was China that was backing both North Korea and North Vietnam.

Following the emergence of Jiang Zemin in the 1990s, the development of the Chinese economy allowed Beijing to move away from Deng Xiaoping's policy of biding time and concealing the country's strength, and China's military ambitions became more apparent day by day.

For several years now, it seems the military budget has grown two-fold every year.

Some shameless people have even likened the Jiang Zemin period to the years of prosperity under the Kangxi and Qianlong emperors of the last dynasty, and associated Hu Jintao with the Wudi emperor of the Han dynasty, saying that these men's "maritime strategy" surpasses that of their illustrious predecessors.

They will hardly stop at the first island chain.

Last year a Chinese submarine trespassed in Japanese waters.

Far from being an error, it was a military fact-finding mission seen as indispensable for China's expansionist goals.

The Chinese army is racing to catch up to the US, and its military training assumes that the US is its adversary.

The fact that Chinese submarines have also traveled around the island of Guam suggest that China's ambitions do not stop with Taiwan.

If the Taiwan Strait falls into China's hands, both the US and Japan will immediately come to feel aware of the absence of this buffer.

Because of its expansionist military ambitions, China has sought to hold military exercises with Russia for the last couple of years, in which Russia plays the aggressor.

Russia is currently reviewing the pros and cons of this proposition. China is also approaching the Indian army to hold joint military games.

The reason for this is that China's maritime strategy does not stop at taking a few islands in the Pacific Ocean, it also requires a number of ports on the Indian Ocean.

It is also seeking to rope Myanmar into these exercises.

Taiwan, the US and Japan are not the only ones that should be concerned about how to face Chinese expansionism.

Paul Lin is a commentator based in New York.

© Copyright 2002-2007 AFAR