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Lowy report: Chinese rivalries risk spiralling conflict [out of control] in South China Sea

“Consequently, there is a genuine risk of an incident at sea (or in the air) spiralling out of control.”

Fierce rivalry between Chinese civilian, paramilitary and military agencies has created a “genuine risk” of conflict in the South China Sea, says a new report.

Reopening one of the great debates of Chinese foreign policy, analyst Linda Jakobson argues that President Xi Jinping is not a dominating leader and there is no “grand plan” of tailored territorial coercion.

Rather, she says, local governments, state oil companies, fishermen and as many as five maritime surveillance agencies are furiously competing to expand bureaucratic turf under the “pretext” of general nationalist policy directions from above.

And her model of bureaucratic competition could be even more dangerous than any grand territorial plan.

Lowy report: Chinese rivalries risk spiralling conflict in South China Sea

“Consequently, there is a genuine risk of an incident at sea (or in the air) spiralling out of control.”

What does that mean?

A conflict starts between China and one other party. Other parties join the conflict. Finally, the US gets dragged into it. Then there is a rapid escalation into a full blown nuclear war.

Do you think the Chinese don’t know this? They know their actions could very well lead to nuclear war with the US. They just don’t care.

Victor Davis Hanson: “A large war is looming”

“A large war is looming, one that will be far more costly than the preventive vigilance that might have stopped it.”

The ancient ingredients of war are all on the horizon. An old postwar order crumbles amid American indifference. Hopes for true democracy in post-Soviet Russia, newly capitalist China, or ascendant Turkey long ago were dashed. Tribalism, fundamentalism, and terrorism are the norms in the Middle East as the nation-state disappears.

Under such conditions, history’s wars usually start when some opportunistic — but often relatively weaker — power does something unwise on the gamble that the perceived benefits outweigh the risks. That belligerence is only prevented when more powerful countries collectively make it clear to the aggressor that it would be suicidal to start a war that would end in the aggressor’s sure defeat.

What is scary in these unstable times is that a powerful United States either thinks that it is weak or believes that its past oversight of the postwar order was either wrong or too costly — or that after Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, America is no longer a force for positive change.

A large war is looming, one that will be far more costly than the preventive vigilance that might have stopped it.

War Clouds on the Horizon?

What Should the World Fear: The Rise or Decline of Illiberal Powers? – The American Interest

How the West answers this question will determine its relations not just with Russia, but with China as well.

Let’s ask ourselves what current challenges can affect the global order, international and European security, and the worldwide march of progress. The Ebola virus? The war in the Middle East? ISIS? Quite a few Western observers consider the rise of China to be such a challenge, but we shouldn’t be in a hurry to agree with them. Let me quote Minxin Pei, who highlighted the analytical problem: U.S. policy toward China, he says, “is premised on the continuing rise of China,” but “China’s declining fortunes have not registered with the U.S. elites.” Meanwhile, a lot of respected China “hands”—among them Francis Fukuyama, Andrew Scobell, Andrew Nathan, and Pei himself—would agree that “the resilience of the authoritarian regime in…China is approaching its limits,” or that “China’s apparently good record today contains many time bombs that will go off in the future.” If the Chinese model is losing its sustainability, then Beijing’s increased foreign policy activity and its more aggressive stance with respect to its neighbors could be viewed as components of an attempt to use the Kremlin’s formula of “compensation” for growing domestic problems by consolidating society around the quest for international status and ambition.

If this assumption is true, then we need to reflect on the risks that the decay of the world’s illiberal powers will pose to the international community. Indeed these risks could be even greater for the world than the risks of their rise. In any event, we already find that we have fallen into an analytical trap here: Our understanding of modern political processes doesn’t just lag behind developments; quite often it distorts our picture of them, complicating the formulation of an adequate political course. All too frequently in the past few decades, expert analysis and predictions have missed the mark. This is exactly what happened to Sovietology, which had maintained that the Soviet Union was stable right up to the moment of its collapse. Seymour Martin Lipset’s and Gyorgy Bence’s “Anticipations of the Failure of Communism” explained the Sovietologists’ error in the following way: “The scholars…looked for institutions and values that stabilized the polity and society.” They should have also emphasized “dysfunctional aspects, structures, and behaviors, which might cause a crisis.” This approach, perhaps, would allow us to look at China through a different lens.

While the question of China’s rise or decline is still up in the air and a subject of frequent debate, Russia’s decay is crystal clear. Moreover, while China may impact the global economic landscape and undermine the stability of the Asia-Pacific region in the future, Russia is already undermining the system of international relations and challenging the liberal democracies in a way that has confounded their ability to respond. The Western states are still trying to view this challenge as a mere regional conflict. Putin has bluntly declared: the old order has collapsed; the Kremlin is ready to offer new rules of the game.

What Should the World Fear: The Rise or Decline of Illiberal Powers? – The American Interest

The article concludes with the following warning: The decline of illiberal powers (Russia and China) could be the most threatening to the world.

This is another in a long list of warnings that things are going to get worse before they get better. Both Russia and China are trying to topple the existing world order for their benefit. Historically, this has not gone well. If a great-power war were going to happen, then this transitional period is a prime candidate for such an event.

Pax Americana to give way to a new world order [Accompanied by conflict and volatility] | The Australian

FUTURE historians may well come to see 2014 as a bellwether year in world affairs, marking an epochal shift to a new, more turbulent world order no longer dominated by the values or power of the US and its Western allies.

Such shifts occur periodically in the international system. More often than not, they are accom­panied by conflict and heightened geopolitical volatility. Sometimes they are preceded by dramatic events such as revolution or war, the dates of which become enshrined in human consciousness and shape national identities.

The years 1918 and 1945 spring to mind, as does 1989, when the mass flight of East Germans through the once formidable barrier of the Berlin Wall signalled the demise of the Soviet empire and the end of the Cold War.

But if 2014 lacks the end of era feel of earlier tipping-point years, in retrospect it will be seen as the year in which a fraying Pax Americana (literally, American peace) fin­ally unravelled and was replaced by a new order, the contours of which are becoming more discernible, even though the final form is still unclear.

The consequences of this shift are likely to be profound, affecting the prosperity and security of every global citizen. And they pose daunting challenges in foreign policy, trade and national security for Australians, the like of which we have not confronted before.

Pax Americana to give way to a new world order | The Australian

Dear gentle reader, I hope you are getting this. You are seriously screwed big-time. The international system is unstable and there is great risk of war. You should be focusing on the risk of great-power war.

Based on history, the risk of war rises 7 years after a big financial crash. That means the year 2015 starts an extremely dangerous period. We need to watch very closely for a Sarajevo event. 

The World Has China Wrong, Says Top Pentagon Adviser – The Epoch Times

One of the first problems, Pillsbury said in a phone interview, is “We’re not taking seriously a lot of writings and speeches by the Chinese hawks.” He noted the Chinese regime does in fact follow through on the strategies proposed by its military leaders, however outlandish they may sound. Examples of this can be seen in recent developments in the South China Sea.

Then there was Chinese Gen. Zhang Zhaozhong, who proposed in May 2013 what he called the “cabbage strategy” to capture disputed territory in the South China Sea. Zhang said it worked by sending fishing ships into disputed waters, then marine surveillance ships, then warships.

Just months later, the world saw Zhang’s strategy take shape. The Chinese regime began equipping fishing fleets with military-grade satellite navigation systems, and now most major news outlets have covered China’s use of fishing boats in what appear to be highly coordinated incursions into disputed waters in the East China Sea and South China Sea.

Pillsbury said one of the clearest texts on China’s use of unconventional warfare was a 1999 book by two Chinese colonels—one of whom is now a Major General—called “Unrestricted Warfare.”

“That was widely dismissed at the time as two crazy Chinese colonels,” Pillsbury said, referring to the book. He added, the book was not translated into English for many years, and in the community of China experts, “almost nobody read the book.”

The World Has China Wrong, Says Top Pentagon Adviser – The Epoch Times

The biggest problem for the West is that there is little accountability for being wrong. How can good ideas possibly rise to the top when there is so much wrong in the way and no way to clear a path? So it is much more likely that US leaders would get China wrong than right. And not believing what the Chinese are saying puts the US in some pretty serious danger. Disarming at the same time means that the US will be on the losing end should war break out. The fact that China and Russia appear to be forming a military alliance has just made things worse.

 

China: The Window Is Closing [for Waging War]

“There is a two-year window until Obama leaves office. China is well aware that that window is closing and he will be replaced by someone likely to prove less feckless.”

As the denouement of the China economy approaches, the Politburo’s window for waging war is closing.  Their best chance is when they still have an air of inevitability.

And China continues to prepare for war.  They have done a good job of convincing their neighbors that one is coming. Over 60% of people in countries bordering the South China Sea fear Chinese aggression and expect war.  They continue to convince themselves that war is inevitable.  A Chinese Government film made in late 2013 made for consumption within the party and the military, Silent Contest, began with these words:

“The process of China’s achieving a national renaissance will definitely involve engagement and a fight against the U.S.’ hegemonic system.  This is the contest of the century, regardless of people’s wishes.”

The basis of the film is that the US used cultural engagement with the Soviet Union to destroy that country and is also using cultural engagement to contain and divide China.  The fact that China considers itself to be involved in a titanic “contest of the century” with the U.S. would be news to most Americans.  Now if the Chinese were actually planning on a war with the U.S., they would have a schedule and a list of things to do.  Things like demonising contact with foreigners, tightening control of public opinion and stockpiling of oil. Well, check, check and check.

China: The Window Is Closing

Russia accuses West of seeking regime change in Moscow – CNN.com

With tensions simmering over the deadly crisis in Ukraine, Russia has accused the West of seeking regime change in Moscow, prompting renewed comparisons with the Cold War era.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia made the comments at an event Saturday as he attacked Western sanctions on Russian interests.

“As for the concept behind the use of coercive measures, the West is making it clear it does not want to try to change the policy of the Russian Federation … they want to change the regime — practically no one denies this,” Lavrov said at a meeting of a foreign and domestic policy council in Moscow.

Russia accuses West of seeking regime change in Moscow – CNN.com

Russia was already on the path to regime change all by itself. Now the West is just helping it along a little faster. That the foreign minister is openly discussing this threat is serious. It means the regime is very worried (and it should be) about the possibility of revolution – just like in Ukraine. Only in Russia regime change for Putin will mean death.

What does the threat of regime change (and death) really mean?

It means now the regime can afford to be much more aggressive with its handling of foreign policy. If the regime is going to go under anyway, then for the leaders what do they have to lose? Now anything is possible. The impossible becomes the possible.

HAGEL: The World Is ‘Damn Dangerous’ And Our Army Is Not Ready

“We live in this imperfect, dynamic, changing, threatening, dangerous, interconnected world that we have never seen before, that we have never seen anything like this before,” Hagel said.

“The world is dangerous. It is damn dangerous,” Hagel said.

Earlier on, Hagel conceded to an array of US foreign policy failures read aloud by Rose from the op-ed pages of The New York Times, adding they came in response to an unprecedented and uniquely volatile global environment.

“We live in this imperfect, dynamic, changing, threatening, dangerous, interconnected world that we have never seen before, that we have never seen anything like this before,” Hagel said. “And so policies, yes, are predicated on historical knowledge and cultural awareness and all that goes into that. Have we made mistakes over a series of many years? Yeah, I think we have. I think anybody would agree to that. But that’s not the issue. That’s not the responsibility I have now or the president has or John Kerry. Our responsibilities now are to find ways that we can make it better, find strategies and policies that work within a world of uncontrollables.”

HAGEL: The World Is ‘Damn Dangerous’ And Our Army Is Not Ready – Business Insider

“We live in this imperfect, dynamic, changing, threatening, dangerous, interconnected world that we have never seen before, that we have never seen anything like this before,” Hagel said.

So we’ve never seen anything like the current world before, says Hagel.

I’ve talked about this in past but it’s been awhile. We are currently stuck in the middle of a phase change – like going from water to ice. In the current state things won’t work like they did in the past. Things are very sensitive. Things that worked in the past now don’t seem to work all that well. These are signs of an impending crisis which I talk about here and the Fourth Turning discusses as well. The Fourth Turning points out that the US reaches a big crisis every 80 to 100 years since the beginning of the last crisis period due to demographics. When the people who experienced the last crisis are almost all gone, then the US becomes susceptible all over again. The last crisis period ran from 1925 to 1945 and the new one goes from 2005 to 2025.

Does Russia Think Their New Nuclear Weapons Could Win World War III?

The recent START 3 treaty was overwhelmingly favorable to Russia, and they have taken advantage of it with gusto.

Russia has developed long-range cruise missiles of a new generation that will soon be deployed on submarines of the Black Sea Fleet and missile ships of the Caspian Flotilla.

The U.S. State Department admitted as much in a report published at the beginning of September, stating that Russia has passed us in nuclear weapons capability for the first time in 40 years.

In the end, however, our nuclear force crews, and the American public, see the threat of full-scale nuclear war as “simply nonexistent.”

Not so in Russia. They’re ready. And what would we do if they used these tactical nukes against one of its neighbors? Would we start World War III? Would our weapons actually work?

This same question never seems to go away.

Does Russia Think Their New Nuclear Weapons Could Win World War III?

Japan’s Military Is Revving Up To Meet China’s Growing Regional Ambitions [and War]

‘If ever there was a formula for world wars, it’s minor disputes between countries backed by big allies.’ If China and Japan go to war, then so do China and the US.

“All those hotspots, and what’s the common denominator? It’s China,” Gordon Arthur, a journalist focusing on Asian Pacific defense, told Business Insider. “I think they’ve been very assertive under president Xi Jinping, so I think it’s very possible that an accident or escalation could happen.”

That case is the main driver for Japan’s renewed defense priorities, and for its move to base its new amphibious capability — including a radar station — in southwestern Japan.

If ever there was a formula for world wars, it’s minor disputes between countries backed by big allies (“it’s likely that there will be a third world war to fight for sea rights,” reads one op-ed by a professor at a a Chinese military university). Even Shinzo Abe, a man in leadership rather than academia, this year compared the trade-heavy relationship between China and Japan to that of the UK and Germany before World War I.

Japan’s Military Is Revving Up To Meet China’s Growing Regional Ambitions – Business Insider

China, U.S. moving closer to viewing war as inevitable | The Japan Times

Thucydides described this “natural” process regarding Athens and Sparta as a combination of “rise” and fear — which inevitably leads to war. Today this is known as the “Thucydides trap.” The international relations question of our age is: Can China and the U.S. avoid it?

This may sound like Chicken Little warning that “the sky is falling.” But the situation really is quite bad and growing worse by the day. It is now clear that China expects to play a role at “the center of the world’s political system.” It wants to be a new rule maker and an old rule breaker if it is in its national interest to do so. It wants to be an “exceptional” country like the U.S.

China, U.S. moving closer to viewing war as inevitable | The Japan Times

China think tank accuses Japan of preparing for war | GlobalPost

Recent increases in the frequency of Japanese military exercises suggest that the country is preparing for war, a think tank with close ties to China’s military said in a report released Wednesday.

“Island landing” and other readiness drills conducted by Japan’s Self-Defense Forces “are not only provocative and confrontational, but also meant for war preparedness,” the China Strategic Culture Promotion Association said in its third annual report on Tokyo’s military capabilities.

China think tank accuses Japan of preparing for war | GlobalPost

Navy Intel Officer Was Right About China’s Prep for “Short, Sharp War” with Japan | RealClearDefense

China prefers “short, sharp wars.”

Whether one looks at China’s war with India (1962), the Soviet Union (1969) or with Vietnam (1979), it is clear that its strategic aims revolve around the desire to achieve rapid, limited results leaving them in an advantageous position, in addition to teaching the other side “lessons” about China’s will and power. Captain Fanell’s assessment of recent operations by the PLAN confirm that—lo and behold!—China is training to conduct war in a manner that China prefers. One wonders what third parties thought of the talk of “shock and awe” that preceded our campaign in Iraq in 2003. That the identified opponent of China’s future aggression was Japan should not be surprising, given the rising acrimony over disputed territory that is driven in no small measure by the very transparent intent Fanell identifies with Chinese leadership.

Navy Intel Officer Was Right About China’s Prep for “Short, Sharp War” with Japan | RealClearDefense