Thursday, September 08, 2016

Away from the Sea

Sometimes things work out.

China is looking inland and west:

In Kashgar, on the western edge of the Peoples' Republic of China, the view is reminiscent of the Bible and the days when the ancient Silk Road began to take shape here in the 1st century B.C. Today, the government plans to use Kashgar as the starting point for a new, global trade route -- but at this point, there is still little evidence of it. ...

Xi Jinping, 63, the president of China and general secretary of the Communist Party, wants to revive the myth and build a New Silk Road, in large parts along the old trade route. It would mark the return of a legend. For some time now, many of his speeches have included references to "yi dai yi lu," or "a belt, a road." It is a gigantic project, and China envisions about 60 countries being involved, or about half of humanity.

China wants to expand trade along the route and develop infrastructure. Beijing has earmarked $40 billion (€36 billion euros) for the project, to be invested in building new roads, and in railroads, pipelines and ports from Lithuanian to the Horn of Africa, Sri Lanka to Israel, and Pakistan to Iran. Two railroad lines lead to Germany, one from Zhengzhou to Hamburg and the other from Chongqing to Duisburg.

Go west, young Han proto-super power, as I wanted when wondering how we could deflect rising Chinese military power:

The Russians are already playing the game and have been successful in keeping China pointed towards Taiwan and therefore America, Taiwan's ally. As a reader noted, the Russians did this once already in Operation Snow, which succeeded in getting Japan to go south in World War II instead of north into the interior of Asia where the Soviet Union was.
We have reacted by trying to arm Taiwan with better weapons and to whip the Taiwanese military into shape to actually fight off an invasion. We've pulled Japan into the arena with a commitment to defend Taiwan and we are making a major play toward incorporating India into our alliance system. We have Australia on board and our forces are based in Central Asia.

While all this looks good for building an alliance to fight and defeat China, this is not playing the Great Game. This is making the best of a worst case scenario--war with China. Sure, if we must fight I'd rather win, but just going to war is going to cost us in lives and money.

One can say that we hope that by becoming strong enough we deter the Chinese but this is still only second best. A deterred China will always be on the verge of attacking, just waiting for the moment when we cannot stop them for one reason or another and so cannot deter them for even a short window of opportunity.

No, defeating China makes the best of the worst case and deterring China makes the best of the second worst case. We need to shovel the Snow back north. We need to play the Great Game in Asia to achieve our best case--a China pointed away from the south--Taiwan and the United States and our other allies--and pointed toward the north and the interior of Asia.

I won't say that we've actively sought to achieve this goal since I wrote that in 2005. But it is working out that way as China tries to overcome their vulnerability to interference with their sea lines of communication.

There will be problems with China pushing into the heart of Europe. China will be more than a regional threat in the Pacific.

But we are increasingly a Pacific power and out interests are growing in Asia and the Pacific.

So such a Chinese initiative will help America by dividing Chinese military efforts away from a focus on sea and air power; by getting Russia to worry about China instead of mythical threats from NATO (and if China comes to Europe, having a sane Russia cooperate with or even join NATO makes sense rather than being nonsense pretending a North Atlantic Treaty Organization should guarantee Russia's Far East from Chinese threats); by pushing Chinese power into contact with European military power--which America could never count on to help us in the South China Sea--Europe will tie down Chinese power that makes it to Europe's neighborhood; and India will have more incentive to cooperate with America as Chinese power flows around India's northern borders.

Indeed, if China is no longer so reliant on sea lines of communication through the South China Sea because it has significant trade routes inland, perhaps China won't be so willing to go to war with America to gain absolute control over the western Pacific region.

So I don't react with alarm at China's New Silk Road. I react with a guarded sigh of relief. If China is going to rise--and stay there--I'd rather have as many potential foes of China facing China as possible.