In a surprise announcement, China revealed that in addition to scheduled naval drills to be held near Vietnam (in case there isn't nearly enough tensions between China and the former US war foe) the country's Military of Defense announced that it would expand military drills in the East China Sea, which will re-escalate the already boiling territorial disputes which involve Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam. While the scale of the current drills is bigger than in the past, it’s a coincidence the annual exercises are being held at the same time, Beijing News reported yesterday, citing Zhang Junshe, a researcher at Navy Military Research Institute.
The irony that this is happening as China is already conducting a massive live-fire drill off Beibu Bay, also known as Gulf of Tonkin, will hardly escape readers, although we doubt even China will be so daring as to troll the US with a follow up "false flag" operation that launches a "contained" regional war. In addition to Tonkin, China is also engaging in a drill in the Bohai Strait next to North Korea, and now: the East China Sea, just to make sure Japan and Taiwan are also covered just in case.
Why is China doing this now, when virtually every corner of the world is on the verge of war? Well, why not: with the rest of the world back into Cold War territory if not worse, China itself has engaged in numerous territorial disputes with its neighbors, so what better option than to be prepared if and when the crisis presents itself: a crisis which everyone knows by now, should never be put to waste. Ironically, that appears to be the tactical thinking behind every other conflict around the globe: all it would take for things to spiral out of control on a global scale is a series of domino-like events resulting from a crisis which everyone thinks can be contained. Incorrectly so.
Most are familiar with the story. For those who aren't, Bloomberg explains: President Xi Jinping has been expanding the reach of China’s navy and using the added muscle to more aggressively assert territorial claims in the region. Chinese and Japanese ships regularly tail one another off disputed islands in the East China Sea, while deadly, anti-Chinese riots broke out in Vietnam in May after China set up an oil rig in waters also claimed by that country. The Philippines has sought United Nations arbitration in its maritime spat with China.
Not surprisingly, just like with Syria, just like with Ukraine, just like with most wars in the history of the world, the underlying conflict is about one simple thing: energy and natural resources.
China claims much of the South China Sea, which may be rich in energy and mineral deposits, under its “nine dash-line” map first published in 1947, which extends hundreds of miles south from China’s Hainan Island to equatorial waters off the coast of Borneo, taking in some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes. In the East China Sea, Japan and China both lay claims to a chain of uninhabited islands known as Senkaku in Japanese and Diaoyu by the Chinese. The U.S. has said it will come to Japan’s defense in any clash over the islands.
The nine-dash line, shown in green, is picture below:
With the current drills “what’s different from the past is that China is doing it in a more high-profile way, which does make China appear to be raising military tensions,” said Suh Jin Young, a professor emeritus of Chinese politics at Seoul’s Korea University. “But in Chinese eyes, the tensions were begun by the U.S. and Japan, and China thinks it’s only conducting what it has been doing annually.”
More irony: the latest drill announcement takes place during a rare sign of military cooperation with the two countries, China is participating along with the U.S. and Japan in the five-week-long Rim of the Pacific Exercise that runs through Aug. 1 in waters off Hawaii. China’s four ships make up the second-biggest naval contingent after the U.S. of the 22 nations taking part. But not all is at it seems there either because as we reported last week, China has sent a surveillance ship to Hawaii in retaliation to US navy build up in its back yard. Simply said, China is pretending to be a diplomatic ally of the west even as it is actively engaging in trade pacts with Russia and subverting US military influence around its borders, and especially in regions it deems of vital national interest.
It is also notable that as part of the ongoing drills, Chinese airlines last week were ordered to cut a quarter of their flights at a dozen airports, including two in Shanghai, because of “high frequency exercises,” state media reported on July 22. China’s airline regulator has issued an orange alert for massive flight delays in eastern and central regions due to “rainstorms, routine military exercises and other comprehensive factors.” Both China Southern Airlines and China Eastern Airlines said yesterday they expected delays or cancellations.
And while military and civil aviation authorities have taken steps to minimize the impact of the new drills, the Defense Ministry said in the statement, let's hope no Malaysian, Vietnamese, or Japanese Airline flight ends up mysteriously diverted over the live fire zone in the South China Sea: not even the US State Department has enough YouTube clip producers and directors to "explain" the global panic that would result.