Wed, 27 Sep 2023

Hong Kong, June 5 (ANI): China and the US are far apart relationally, even though the Shangri-La Dialogue -organized by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) from 2-4 June - is designed to bring nations together to discuss issues of strategic importance.

China's refusal to accept a meeting with the US at the 2023 event in Singapore is emblematic of the troubled relationship. Instead of dialoguing, the Chinese government presented its one-sided view and told others to essentially like it or lump it.

This was very obvious in the speech of General Li Shangfu, China's Minister of National Defense, who deflected blame for any responsibility, pointed fingers at others and brazenly pushed a warped worldview that only the communist masters in Beijing subscribe to.

This was Li's first international engagement since being appointed to the post on 12 March, but his speech only regurgitated the party's old canards. Meanwhile, the rest of the world recognizes a growing disconnect between what China says and what it does.

Li acknowledged at the IISS on 4 June, "Our world is far from tranquil, and people across the countries long for peace, development and cooperation." How ironic that Li was speaking on the 34th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, in which hundreds of peaceful Chinese protestors lost their lives in 1989, and of which the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has expunged all traces from societal memory.

Li asked three questions: Who is disrupting peace in the region? What are the root causes of chaos and instability? And what should we stay vigilant and guard against? On the very day Li was giving his speech, a Chinese destroyer abruptly cut off an American warship (accompanied by a Canadian one) as it transited the Taiwan Strait, contravening International Maritime Organization collision regulations. A week earlier, a Chinese J-16 fighter buzzed an American RC-135 aircraft over the South China Sea, in what Washington DC described as an "unnecessarily aggressive maneuver".

Such actions greatly increase the risk of miscalculation. They also illustrate how China has gone rogue. Worse than that, China and the People's Liberation Army (PLA) are proud of such blatant behavior.

Contrary to the PLA's aforementioned antics, Li called for mutual respect instead of bullying and hegemony. Yet his words are hollow. "We in China believe that the key for countries to live in harmony is mutual respect and treating each other as equals.

We are strongly opposed to imposing one's own will on others, placing one's own interests above those of others, and pursuing one's own security at the expense of others."Well said, General Li! But it is advice designed for others, for China is not beholden to such standards of behavior.

"Ladies and gentlemen, friends," Li crooned, "China is committed to promoting world peace and development with concrete actions." He asserted that "fairness and justice should transcend the law of the jungle. All countries, big or small, strong or weak, rich or poor, are equal members of the international community. International affairs should be handled by all countries through consultation rather than be dictated by one or a few countries."Li also laughably stated China "firmly upholds the UN-centered international system, the international order underpinned by international law and basic norms governing international relations based on the purposes and principles of the UN Charter".

China's "exemplary" upholding of international norms are belied by its treatment of Uyghurs, with hundreds of thousands incarcerated or pushed into forced labor. It is also seen in Hong Kong, which marked the most recent Tiananmen Square massacre by arresting people for any hint of remembrance. One with a candle in his pocket was promptly arrested, showing just how fearful and weak the communist edifice is.

Displaying the utmost hypocrisy, Li said some countries - i.e. the US - "take a selective approach to rules and international laws. It likes forcing its own rules on others ... In the so-called rules-based international order, it never tells you what the rules are and who made these rules."This complaint comes from a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), but who flagrantly flaunts its rules. It wishes to prevent foreign warships from sailing through the international waters of the Taiwan Strait or South China Sea, or from foreign military aircraft flying over the same areas. Chinese naval, law enforcement and maritime militia vessels routinely harass, chase away or even deliberately collide with fishing or foreign coast guard vessels from the likes of the Philippines and Vietnam.

In 2014, China and the US signed a memorandum of understanding setting out rules of behavior for air and maritime encounters. Signed by Secretary Hagel and Defense Min Chang Wanquan, such documents are now worthless because China refuses to abide by them.

China feels it has the right to break international rules at will, and it therefore conducts surveys in the waters of other nations, for example. Currently, four weeks after entering Vietnam's EEZ to perform illegal survey operations, China's Xiang Yang Hong 10 and a large security escort of coast guard and maritime militia ships started for home.

At the IISS event in Singapore, Commodore Jay Tristan Tarriela of the Philippine Coast Guard challenged Li about this duplicity between China's words and actions. Li avoided giving an answer, for empty promises of "mutual respect" are just that - empty.

Similarly, during a meeting with Yasukazu Hamada, Li told the Japanese defense minister that incursions near the Senkaku Islands should be viewed from a "long-term and big-picture perspective". What he actually meant was from China's perspective, for Beijing has no intention to acknowledge the concerns of another.

Questioned about China's dangerous antics in the air and at sea after his speech, Li bullishly asked: "What's the point of going there? For China we always say 'mind your own business'. Take good care of your own vessels, your fighter jets, take good care of your own territorial airspace and waters. If that's the case, then I don't think there will be future problems."Yet this is hypocritical in the extreme. Chinese warships and aircraft regularly operate near the territorial waters of neighbors like Japan and the Philippines. Chinese warships have exercised the right of innocent passage through US territorial waters in the Aleutians Islands in Alaska. It has also sent spy ships to observe naval exercises near Australia and Hawaii.

Despite a speech entitled "China's New Security Initiatives", Li had little new to offer. Just once did he mention Chairman Xi Jinping's Global Security Initiative, in which Xi "promotes common comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security and explores a new path to security, featuring dialogue over confrontation, partnership over alliances, and a win-win over this zero sum".

With nary a trace of irony, Li said, "Chinese modernization has played its role in improving global governance. Facing growing deficits in global governance, China holds high the banner of multilateralism and endeavors to follow a vision of global governance featuring extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits."China's promulgation of a "new path to security" remains nebulous. Xi wants to "promote more equitable security rules," which "does not mean reinventing the wheel or overturning the existing rules. Rather, countries should abide by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and complement and refine existing rules to make the international order fairer and more equitable."This is extreme dissemblance. China wants the ability to pick and choose what rules it follows, and it does wish to overturn the current rules and pecking order.

Li promised China will accelerate consultations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, for example, and will follow and improve the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES). Yet China is the one who has been delaying the former, plus the code will have no means of enforcement. In other words, China will piously claim to have contributed to this agreement, but will continue to bully others with no fear of reprisal. Similarly, China has agreed to CUES, but it still dangerously maneuvers against foreign military assets without self-restraint.

Chinese belligerence to all and sundry shows that the CCP's aim is to undermine the US and impose its militaristic "might is right" vision on others. China's gambit is that the USA is not an Asian country, and it should therefore give up its presence in Asia-Pacific. Then again, the same could be said of China and its Arctic ambitions. China is not in the Arctic, so why does it not butt out of that region?Without naming the US directly, Li continued his invective: "Some country has willfully interfered in other country's internal affairs and matter in the affairs of other countries and frequently resorted to unilateral sanctions, incursion with force. It has incited color revolutions and proxy wars in different regions to create chaos and turbulence and just walked away, leaving a mess behind. We must never allow such things to happen again in the Asia-Pacific."Li pointed fingers at the same country "expanding military bases, reinforcing its military presence, intensifying an arms race in the region and transferring nuclear weapon technologies to non-nuclear states," of "fueling the fire and fishing in troubled waters".

But this is disingenuous. Li was undoubtedly referring to AUKUS, in which Australia will gain nuclear-powered submarines. However, these boats have nothing to do with nuclear weapons, for only their propulsion relies on nuclear power.

Li warned of a resurgence in Cold War and bloc mentalities, and decried NATO-like military alliances in the Asia-Pacific. China fails to see that its own militarism is pushing regional nations closer together, with the Quad and AUKUS logical reactions to Beijing's arrogant saber-rattling.

Li said Beijing will "establish various direct hotlines to expand the communication channels". China already has a hotline with the US military, but American leaders lament that China never answers it. Again, this is all meaningless doublespeak. Li hollowly promised, "At the end of the day, only enhancing dialogue, and communication and promoting solidarity and cooperation, will ensure stability in our region."Li snubbed an invitation from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to talk during the Shangri-La Dialogue, and the best he got was a handshake at mealtime. Austin said in his speech: "For responsible defense leaders, the right time to talk is anytime, the right time to talk is every time, and the right time to talk is now." Then again, China is not responsible, preferring to act like a truculent child and avoid talking to the US.

Amidst all the hypocrisy, the above represented China's carrot. After that, Li brought out the stick. "...We will never hesitate to defend our legitimate rights and interests, let alone sacrificing the nation's core interests," he threatened. "As the lyrics of a well-known Chinese song go, when friends visit us, we welcome them with fine wine. When jackals or wolves come, we will face them with shotguns. This illustrates the Chinese people's character of being friendly and kind, but not intimidated by strong power."Reflecting the CCP's fixation with Taiwan, he claimed that Taiwan is an internal affair. He alleged that the democratic nation of 23.6 million is China's Taiwan, and a resolution is "a matter for the Chinese to decide". Naturally, China has absolutely no intention of letting the Taiwanese decide for themselves.

He accused the Democratic Progressive Party of pushing for incremental Taiwan independence, erasing Taiwan's Chinese identity (because China mistakenly conflates communism with being Chinese) and hijacking public opinion. He further blamed the US for selling arms to Taiwan. "Let me make it clear once again, the more rampant the separatist activities for Taiwan independence are, the more resolute outcome the measures will be, and all foreign interference will end up in failure."Li, parroting CCP dogma, said, "China's reunification is an overriding historical trend and an unstoppable course ... China must be and will be reunified ... We make no promise to renounce the use of force. If anyone dares to separate Taiwan from China, the Chinese military will not hesitate for a second. We will fear no opponents and resolutely safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity, regardless of any cost."What fighting talk! Clearly, China is not afraid to throw its weight around. Yet, frighteningly, it echoes the kind of statements Tsar Vladimir Putin was making ahead of his want on invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Li acknowledged, "It is undeniable that a severe conflict or confrontation between China and the US will be an unbearable disaster for the world." China is the virtuous party, of course, as it is the US that "needs to act with sincerity, match its words with deeds and take concrete actions together with China to stabilize the relations and prevent further deterioration".

There was no Chinese charm offensive at Shangri-La Dialogue 2023. Instead, over the years, China has become more and more aggressive, as evinced by Chinese defense minister speeches there. It is high time that China take its own advice and "match its words with deeds". (ANI)

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