Xi’s history lessons
The Communist Party is plundering history to justify its present-day ambitions
Aug 15th 2015 | From the print edition
US Ambassador Philip Goldberg made this statement during sidelights of the turnover ceremonies of eight brand-new Bell-412EPs combat utility helicopters and two attack versions of the AgustaWestland AW-109Es Monday at Villamor Air Base, Pasay City.
In the West, it is often said that Asians are a different bunch, that they conduct diplomacy in a more subtle fashion -- disguising their differences under the veil of cultural solidarity and burgeoning economic ties. I vividly recall the 'guidelines' forwarded to me by a prominent American think tank ahead of a major conference hosted in an Asian capital.
In a politely Orientalist fashion, the participants, particularly those from the West, were encouraged to be circumspect and courteous in expressing their views, to hold the business cards of their Asia counterparts with two hands (instead of one) to exhibit respect, and maintain utmost collegiality in their interactions with their Asian hosts (i.e., don't be too frank and open), even when the topic at hand was as contentious as, say, nuclear proliferation or maritime security.
As Francis Fukuyama explains in his critically-acclaimed book The Origins of Political Order, across the Sino-sphere, which covers Asia's most dynamic economies, Confucianism -- a philosophical tradition that sidelined 'legalism' as the enduring state ideology of Imperial (and post-Mao) China -- always emphasized the importance of amicable and ethically-inspired resolution of disputes instead of, say, confrontational litigation or brute force.
In the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which has a significant Muslim population, the emphasis is on consensus-building and consultation, drawing on Islam's age-old tradition of deliberative/consultative governance, embodied by the concept of Shura.
In recent years, however, the veneer of Asian exceptionalism has been decisively shattered by a particularly bitter, acrimonious, and openly hostile relationship between China and Philippines over a whole host of disputed rocks, atolls, islands and fishers and hydrocarbon resources in the South China Sea. Slowly but surely, Asian territorial disputes have become as hostile as inter-state disputes among Western countries in the past and Middle Eastern nations in more recent times.
And it's becoming clear, as realist scholars like John Mearsheimer have been warning for years, that a rising China will probably not be substantially different in terms of its ambitions and behavior from other revisionist states in the past. An explosion of nationalist fervor among Asian claimant states hasn't helped either. A prosperous region is now sleepwalking into conflict.
Thai plan to buy China subs has US on edge - August 15, 2015
China showcased its Xia-class nuclear submarine at an international fleet review in April. © Kyodo
BANGKOK -- For any nation, deciding which country to purchase military weapons from is no insignificant matter. In fact, it can greatly affect national strategy.
Thailand recently unveiled a plan that underscores this and which has stirred concerns in the U.S. and Japan.
In early July, the Royal Thai Navy said it planned to buy three submarines from China for a total of 36 billion baht ($1.02 billion). The Southeast Asian country has been shopping around for submarines in recent years as it has exactly zero such vessels in its fleet.
Initially, the Thai government considered buying subs from U.S. allies, such as South Korea or Germany. So its decision to change tack and buy from China caught the U.S. off guard.
Washington regards Thailand as a strategically important player in Southeast Asia and has therefore been keen to carry out exchanges with the Thai military. That is reflected in the annual Cobra Gold multilateral exercise, in which the two countries have played a leading role since 1982. Cobra Gold now involves more than 20 countries and has become one of the largest military exercises in the region.
Sounding the alarm
A nervous U.S. has warned that purchasing China-made subs would significantly increase the influence of the Chinese military on its Thai counterpart. Critics in Thailand have also questioned the deal. In the face of such doubts, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who doubles as defense minister, indicated on July 15 that the government was putting the decision temporarily on hold. That does not mean, however, that Bangkok has canceled the plan.
There has, in fact, been a certain amount of cooperation between the Thai and Chinese militaries. The Thai military has traditionally poured more resources into the army, which is why it is has been rushing to bolster its underdeveloped navy. That includes buying six warships from China in the 1990s.
But purchasing submarines is a different matter. The U.S. regards the vessels as valuable leverage against China. A former senior U.S. government official said submarines, not aircraft carriers or other vessels that can easily succumb to missile attacks, will play a greater role in U.S. strategy toward China. "Submarine strength will significantly impact the balance of military power between the U.S. and China in Asia," the official said.
If Thailand procures subs from China, the countries' military relationship could go far beyond short-term cooperation.
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Although not the first or only country to dredge up sand to expand reefs and rocks into artificial islands in the region, the scope and scale of China's land reclamation activities dwarf those of its rival claimants, the report on Asia-Pacific Maritime Strategy said.
"China has now reclaimed 17 times more land in 20 months than the other claimants combined over the past 40 years, accounting for approximately 95 percent of all reclaimed land in the Spratly Islands," the report said.
It has reclaimed land on seven of its eight outposts in the Spratlys, "and as of June 2015, had reclaimed more than 2,900 acres of land."
On all its reclamation sites, China has either started building infrastructure or staged equipment to develop it.
Air Force fuel bill soaring, says COA
By Rio N. Araja | Aug. 24, 2015 at 12:01am
The Philippine Air Force in 2014 incurred a fuel bill that for the first time exceeded the billion-peso mark, according to the Commission on Audit.
CoA’s latest expense report said the Air Force spent P1,011,460,009.91 last year, which was up by 12.88 percent from P896.08 million in 2013.
“This is the first time that PAF exceeded the billion-peso mark in its ‘fuel, oil, and lubricants (FOL) expenses’ although it came close in 2012 when it spent P922,692,000 for the same item previously listed in audit as ‘gas, oil, and lubricants (GOL)’,” the COA report stated.
The PAF’s 2014 FOL cost was the highest among the three branches of service in the military with the Philippine Navy coming in second at P878,358,228.62, followed by the Philippine Army at P425,739,893.95.
The Air Force, Army and Navy spent a combined total of P2.316 billion, CoA said.
With the delivery of additional aircraft and acquisition of more naval transport and patrol vessels in 2015 and 2016, the figure could go higher, sources said.
In 2012, Philippine Navy topped the billion-peso mark at P1.292 billion on GOL for that year.
Also in that same year, the three branches posted the biggest total expenditure on GOL.
Based on CoA’s figures, the Air Force had the biggest fuel bill in the last three years of P2.83 billion, followed closely by the Navy with P2.758 billion, and the Army with P1.467 billion.
China has grabbed Philippine satellite slot in space!