In its report “Philippines’ Duterte plays down China military facilities in disputed sea” yesterday, Reuters quotes Philippine President Duterte as saying that China’s construction of military bases on its artificial islands aims at defense against the US rather than confronting its neighboring states.
That is obvious. The construction has been costing China billions of dollars. China’s military has already been much stronger than its neighbors. Shall China have incurred such huge costs to deal with them?
However, Reuters has been trying hard to vilify China by describing China’s nine-dash line as aggression, the construction on the islands as aiming at restricting freedom of navigation in the area and the Court of International Arbitration at the Hague as a UN agency in spite of UN’s denial.
China built the islands to prevent attack by US submarines from the South China Sea when there were obvious danger of that but it refrained from militarizing them to avoid scaring its neighbors. However US Navy’s stupid freedom of navigation operations have provided China with the excuse to militarize them.
Duterte is wise enough to see that, but Philippine pro-US media want to spread false fear among Philippine people to please the US.
Duterte knows clearly that the Philippines cannot rely on the US in its disputes with China over the South China Sea so that it is entirely unable to confront China militarily.
What the Philippines has been fighting for is the rich fishery and energy resources in the South China Sea. China is entirely capable of taking the resources alone as proved by its ban of Philippine fishing at the Scarborough Shoal after the standoff there. The US simply refused to help the Philippines in the standoff as it will not fight for Philippines’ interests.
At the time of the Scarborough standoff, China has not built the artificial islands but the Philippines dared not to confront China militarily without US assistance. That clearly proves that the artificial islands are not necessary for China to deal with its neighbors.
Duterte is wise to become friendly with China so as to enable the Philippine to fish in the area around Scarborough Shoal and share the energy resources with China. Otherwise as China has the military strength and technology to extract the energy resources in the disputed waters alone and the Philippines will simply get nothing.
We shall regard China as generous to allow the Philippines to share the resources that China is wholly entitled to.
China has thus proved that it wants its relations with other countries to be mutually beneficial. That is why in spite of Western media’s vilification China is and will be more popular in the world.
The situation in the South China Sea now is:
China will be able to get the resources in the areas without disputes. In the areas with disputes, it will share with other claimants;
China has built and militarized its artificial islands sufficiently to make the South China Sea its lake; and
The US is unable to attack China with its navy and has to spend billions of dollars for development of new bombers to attack China.
US media such as the Reuters are unhappy with the situation, but they can do nothing except vilifying China. However, as China grows increasingly popular, they will become increasingly unpopular due to their unfounded vilification.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Reuters’ report, full text of which can be found at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-philippines-china-southchinasea/philippines-duterte-plays-down-china-military-facilities-in-disputed-sea-idUSKCN1G31KQ.
SCMP says in its report “New fighter jets will be used in ‘more regular’ patrols over South China Sea” today, “The deployment of the J-20 stealth fighter for combat service and Su-35 jets for drills over the South China Sea shows the air force has “significantly boosted” its capacity to handle security threats from the sky, according to the People’s Liberation Army.”
In addition, it says, “The air force on Friday confirmed that its J-20 stealth fighter was combat-ready after it entered military service in September.”
Supported by China’s radars and command centers equipped with super computers, on China’s artificial islands, J-20 and Su-35 will dominate the air space there.
US F-35 has too short a range to fight there as US aircraft carriers are unable to enter the range of China’s hundreds of DF-21D and DF26 anti-ship ballistic missiles while its F-22 need repeated risky aerial refuels to reach there.
Now, the South China Sea is indeed China’s lake.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on SCMP’s report, full text of which can be found at http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2133236/new-fighter-jets-will-be-used-more-regular-patrols-over.
Mil.huanqiu.com posts some photos of Chinese air force’s Su-35s patrolling the South China Sea in its report “Drop dead gorgeous! Disclosure of in-cabin views of air force’s Su-35s patrolling South China Sea” today. The photos are taken from CCTV13’s news footage. Three of the 12 photos are posted above. All the 12 photos can be viewed at http://mil.huanqiu.com/gt/2018-02/2893401.html#p=12.
Source: mil.huanqiu.com “Drop dead gorgeous! Disclosure of in-cabin views of air force’s Su-35s patrolling South China Sea” (summary by Chan Kai Yee based on the report in Chiense)
Reuters Staff January 15, 2018 / 8:34 PM / Updated 14 hours ago
MANILA (Reuters) – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte personally made a decision to let China conduct scientific research off the Philippines’ Pacific coast, his spokesman said on Monday, despite concern among critics about threats to maritime sovereignty.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that as chief architect of foreign policy, Duterte allowed China to work with the University of the Philippines in Benham Rise, an area roughly the size of Greece and believed by some scientists to be rich in biodiversity and tuna.
The United Nations declared Benham Rise, off the Pacific coast, part of the continental shelf of the Philippines in 2012. Manila last year renamed it the “Philippine Rise”.
Though China does not lay claim to the area, the lingering presence of its vessels for several months in late 2016 triggered concern about its intentions.
The Philippines granting of the permission to China was not announced and was revealed a few days ago by a lawmaker who has been fiercely critical of Duterte’s close ties with Beijing.
The Philippines and China have a long history of maritime squabbles over sovereignty in the South China Sea, but there has been no disagreement about waters off Manila’s Pacific coast.
Roque said anyone opposed to the joint research project should go to Congress and raise the issue there.
“If this is not a wise move of the president, then a law could be enacted to prohibit it,” he said.
The Philippines would grant permission to any other country that might show interest in conducting maritime research at Benham Rise, he added.
Reporting by Manuel Mogato; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel
Source: Reuters “Philippines’ president made call on China’s sea research – spokesman”
Note: This is Reuters’ report I post here for readers’ information. It does not mean that I agree or disagree with the report’ views.
I mentioned in my post yesterday that building the artificial islands on such a large scale at such high speed costs much more as in doing so, China has to build much more dredging vessels and supporting equipment at huge costs.
According to Chinese navy’s plan as revealed by qianzhan.com in February 2014, only two artificial islands will be built respectively on Fiery Cross Reef and Mischief Reefs. That on Fiery Cross Reef will serve as a military base to control the South China Sea as the reef is located in the middle of the sea area claimed by China. The artificial island on Mischief Reef will be built for development of fishery and fish farming for recovery of the huge artificial island construction costs estimated at $5 billion.
The navy planned to build the two artificial islands in ten years, but actually, China built seven artificial islands in one and a half years. Among the islands, the largest on Mischief Reef with an area of 5.52 square kilometers was built in six months. A total of 32 dredging vessels were used in the land reclamation.
It is understandable that in order to avoid US and rival claimants’ opposition, preparations shall be made fast and in secret and the construction shall be fast but shall it be so fast as to incur much higher costs?
Threat of US Military Imposition of Hague Arbitration Award
Chinese leaders were aware that the arbitration court at the Hague will certainly give an arbitration award very unfavorable for China as it was controlled by the West and that the US would send its aircraft carrier battle groups to force China to accept the arbitration award.
That would be a repetition of US practice in the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis. At that time, Chinese warplanes were outdated Soviet models no match to the advanced fighter jets on US aircraft carriers. Under US military threat, China had to substitute peaceful offensive for military threat in dealing with Taiwan.
Since then China has stepped up its military modernization. It has purchased advanced warplanes from Russia and learnt to make similar advanced warplanes on its own. In addition it has developed DF-21D ballistic and advanced cruise anti-ship missiles and flotillas of Type 022 missile fast boats to deal with US aircraft carriers. US aircraft carriers may be attacked by volleys of China’s DF-21D missiles if they go within the 1500km-range of DF-21D. If they send their fighter/bombers to attack China outside DF-21D’s range, their fighter/bombers are unable to reach Chinese coast as their range is much shorter than 1,500km. They cannot use aerial refueling to lengthen their fighter/bombers’ range as China’s fighter jets can easily shoot down US warplanes when they are refueling.
However, the US has lots of attack nuclear submarines able to fire their submarine-launched cruise missiles at Chinese homeland from the South China Sea, where the water is 1,000 meters deep for US submarines to operate freely.
That was precisely what military experts were thinking about at that time.
US media The National Interest’s defense editor Dave Majumdar’s article “China’s Greatest Fear: U.S. Navy ‘Cruise Missile Carriers’” on October 21, 2005 precisely reflects such a military idea.
According to the article, US Navy shall build additional Ohio Replacement Program submarines to serve as cruise missile carriers for attacking Chinese homeland as it is too risky for US aircraft carriers to go within the range of China’s DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missiles to enable its fighter jets to attack China due to limited range of US carrier-based warplanes.
Other US military experts are also of the opinion that US aircraft carriers are vulnerable to the saturate attack of not only DF-21Ds but also anti-ship cruise missiles; therefore, they believe that the US shall use submarine-launched cruise missiles to conduct first strike to neutralize Chinese land-based defense so that US carriers my come near China to conduct the second strike.
Chinese strategists certainly know that even US existing attack nuclear submarines can launch more than one thousand cruise missiles to conduct the first strike from the South China Sea. As US military interference with China’s disputes with its neighbors, especially the Philippines, seemed imminent, China had to build up a network of artificial islands to deploy an anti-submarine network to detect and track US submarines and have anti-submarine aircrafts and helicopters deployed on the islands to destroy US submarines when they have attacked China. It is precisely due to such defense urgency that China made such huge investment to build artificial islands especially quickly.
Now, with those artificial islands, China is able to deploy enough anti-submarine facilities and firepower no matter how many ballistic missile submarines the US will build and deploy in the South China Sea. They constitute effective deterrence to US submarine attack of Chinese homeland.
As for surface fleets, a US study believes that a floating island together with two aircraft carriers is equivalent to 5 aircraft carriers. The three airports on three artificial islands in the Spratly Islands will be equivalent to at lease 9 aircraft carriers as they may support and supplement one another. Moreover, fixed artificial islands can carry much heavier loads than floating ones; therefore, they may have even greater firepower. For example, heavy fighter jets, fighter/bombers and bombers can take off from the long runway on the three islands to dominate the airspace and sink all US warships even without the help of the anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles from China’s southeastern coast.
As a result, in a war between China and the US, South China Sea will become forbidden area to US navy.
China Is Resolved Even to Fight a War to safeguard Its Rights and Interests in the South China Sea
However, in spite of US pivot to Asia, people in the region watching China’s actions in pressing its claim to disputed South China Sea rocks and shoals have no illusions that China will be deterred by the United States. They have now realized the reality of the asymmetry of respective Chinese and U.S. geopolitical interests. China’s interest in the South China Sea is political and strategic. Politically China’s construction of artificial islands in the South China Sea is aimed at asserting sovereignty to reverse China’s century of being bullied by foreign powers. If under US pressure Chinese leaders had waived China’s claims that they have inherited from Chinese ancestors, they would have been regarded by Chinese people as submitting to the bully of a foreign power like China’s previous corrupt and weak governments. They would thus have lost Chinese people’s support and been unable to rule China.
The huge costs China is willing to incur in building its artificial islands indicate China’s above-mentioned necessity and determination to safeguard its core interests in the South China Sea. However, US military seems not to understand China’s stance. It sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to force China to accept Hague arbitration award that deprives China of all its rights and interests in the South China Sea, China responded with large-scale military drills and combat air patrols of the South China Sea. China was to fight the US for its core rights and interests but the US did not want to fight as it has no core rights or interests in the South China Sea. If it had fought a war with China, American boys would have shed their blood for the interests of the Philippines and Vietnam. No US leaders or politicians are so stupid as to advocate such a war.
As a result, former US President Obama’s pivot to Asia proved to be a complete failure as he failed to be prepared for China’s hardline response to US military pressure. Obama’s successor Trump seems to have given up the pivot. He has already withdrawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Obama’s economic pivot to Asia. In addition, he has not intensified US military operations near China. Instead, the US switched to its new Indo-Pacific strategy to ally with India, Japan and Australia to contain China.
Chinese leaders showed their wisdom in developing and conducting the defense strategy in establishing its Sansha prefecture-level city. When Sansha has grown into a true prefecture-level city, US warships will be sailing within the city when it patrols the South China Sea. They will thus be in a very dangerous position in sailing within a Chinese city. The establishment of Sansha City has thus turned the South China Sea into China’s lake and put an end to US hegemony in the South China Sea.
However, though China now has full control of the South China Sea and is strong enough to exploit all the natural resources there alone without sharing with any rival claimants, China is willing to share the resources with them through bilateral talks.
In spite of that, Southeast Asian elite fear China’s rise.
Article by Chan Kai Yee
In fact the massive island building is not a conundrum as the three airstrips long enough for fighter jets to take off and land clearly indicate the islands were built to control the South China Sea. The real conundrum was the establishment of Sansha City to govern the South China Sea as at the time of its establishment we had no idea there would be large artificial islands to be governed by the city.
The Establishment of a Prefecture-level City with No Land or Population
In 2012 China established the prefecture-level Sansha City to govern its islands, reefs and sea areas in the South China Sea. As there were only a few islands or reefs with very small land areas and very little population in the city, no one paid attention to the establishment, even less the intention to set up the city.
There are three levels of city in China: provincial-level city such as Beijing and Shanghai ranking the same as a province but are, in fact, more important than a province as the Party chief in charge of such a city is usually one of the 20 plus Politburo members; prefecture-level city directly under a province that has a few counties and county-level cities under it; and county-level city. Usually a county has a population exceeding a hundred thousand while a county-level city has a larger population than a county.
Sansha City is a prefecture-level one but with little land and a population around 1,000 people. People who learnt the news wondered what China was up to in establishing such a high-level city with almost no land or population.
However, Chinese leaders who set up the city were very clear of the purpose in setting up such a high-level city. They know that only by the establishment of the maritime Sansha City of a level high enough in the South China Sea can China really have the area claimed by it. A country’s marine area does not merely exist in map or its claim. There has to be physical presence. Therefore, China has to build artificial islands, fill them with population, and develop fishery, fish farming and energy exploitation there so that it will have actual presence there. Moreover, only by so doing will China really benefit by its rights and interests in the area it claims.
China’s Tradition in Building Border Cities for Defense
In Chinese history, China often built cities on its remote border and filled them first with garrison that live on its farming there and then moved people to fill the cities. That is a good way to defend China’s long border.
The development of Sansha City is but the extension of China’s traditional way to defend its border. The only difference now is but the defense of China’s sea area instead of land area.
When the US has switched its pivot to Asia, it first tried to encircle China but failed. Then it interfered with China’s disputes with its neighbors in the South China Sea in order to deprive China’s rights and interests there. That is America’s way to contain China due to Thucydides Trap.
To counter that, first, China made efforts to avoid Thucydides Trap as described in my post “The Conundrum of US Interference with South China Sea Disputes” yesterday.
Second, it set up Sansha City to control the vast area of the South China Sea that China has claimed for many years. Since the superpower the US had begun to interfere with China’s disputes with its neighbors over the South China Sea, Chinese leaders had made a plan to fill the city with land by reclamation. Before the establishment of the city, they had already carried out survey to ensure the feasibility of reclamation and drawn up the actual design of the islands all with strict confidentiality. Having set up the city, they built dredging vessels and equipment for large-scale reclamation in secret for large-scale construction of seven artificial islands with long airstrips on three of them.
As a city is usually densely populated, a dozen square kilometers of land is quite enough for the beginning, but the land has to be filled with people. Now, China is constructing buildings on the land reclaimed to house the people it will soon transfer to the artificial islands.
First, there shall be military garrisons to defend the islands.
Second, there will be fishermen and fish farmers. Using China’s artificial islands as fishing bases, Chinese fishermen can go deep into the South China Sea to fish much more easily with much less fuel cost than from South China coast. As most Chinese rivers and lakes are polluted, the clean environment on those islands will be ideal sites for fish farming.
Moreover, the islands will serve as bases for energy exploration and exploitation. Lots of oil exploitation supporting facilities will be located there. As a result, more and more fishermen, fish farmers and energy exploration and exploitation workers will live on the islands. They are doing well-paid jobs and need various facilities to make their life there enjoyable such as Internet and mobile connections, power generation, hospitals, clinics, restaurants, supermarkets, clubs and even theaters for them.
When the islands in Sansha city have prospered with such facilities, China will develop tourism there. Chinese tourists will flock to the islands instead of Maldives, Jeju, South Korea, Bali, Indonesia, Basha, Malaysia, Palau, etc. The islands have easier access and no language problems for Chinese tourists. Travel to those islands cost much less and is much more convenient as tourists are in their homeland. The fishery and fish farming there will provide tourists with a great variety of seafood fresher and cheaper.
As a result, Sansha City will grow fast into a true prefecture-level city. That is the truth beneath the conundrum.
Costs of Islands Construction Civilian instead of Military
Building border cities for national defense is China’s wise tradition in defending its border. However, if Sansha City is built merely for military purpose, it will be very expensive to build and maintain. The development of fishery, fish farming, energy exploitation and tourism will enable China to recover the costs and even make profits from the city.
Due to the civilian purpose of building Sansha City for fishery, fish farming and energy exploitation, all China has spent in building the artificial islands including the airstrips that can be used by warplanes are civilian projects except facilities solely for military purposes. As a result, no allocation of funds from China’s military budget is necessary in building the artificial islands. Such wise arrangement enables China to conduct arms race with the US with much smaller military budget than the US.
Still, there was the enigma why China built the artificial islands on such a large scale at devilish high speed. In doing so, China has to build much more dredging vessels and supporting equipment at huge costs. It would certainly show China’s great economic strength, but China did not seem to have redundant financial resources to waste like that.