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China-U.S.: Trans-Pacific “Partnership” vs. Beijing and “Nansha Crisis”

Suffering situational defeat in Syria, the United States appears to have decided to escalate tension in the Far East.

Since October 27, namely after the first meeting of the “Syrian Four” (Russia, U.S., Turkey and Saudi Arabia) in Vienna, U.S. has plunged into open military-political provocations against China in the waters of South China Sea. The U.S. naval warship USS Lassen illegally patrolled near Nansha Islands in South China Sea without official permission of Beijing. The Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef and Mischief Reef that are part of the Nansha Islands [the Spratly Islands]. In 2013-2014, and since the beginning of 2015, there have been all grounds to suspect that the Far East region and the chimera of “the dispute with China” are one of the backups for the White House politicians and Pentagon. The trigger can be the Nansha Islands – several countries, among them U.S. satellites Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia and others, are claiming the Nansha Islands from China. U.S. as alleged ally of the above states “cannot leave them without protection,” though China does not threaten any of these countries. It just insists that this chain of islands historically belongs to the Celestial Empire.

The formal trigger for escalation of the dispute for the Nansha Islands is territorial claims the Philippines has filed against China in the Arbitration Court. However, China does not recognize that body and on October 30 it officially refused to participate in the proceedings or accept any rulings of the Arbitration Court. It has been argued for many years that the Nansha Islands and Scarborough Reef and the sea basin surrounding it are rich in oil and gas. After the recent developments, there is another fact that triggered a conflict of interests around the Nansha Islands. The point is that since the beginning of 2015, U.S. has inherently declared a trade war to China. It happened in October too – on the 5th of October.

“When more than 95 percent of our potential customers live outside our borders, we can’t let countries like China write the rules of the global economy,” Mr. Obama said in a statement commenting on the conclusion of Trans-Pacific Partnership. “We should write those rules, opening new markets to American products while setting high standards for protecting workers and preserving our environment.”

The president said that the TPP eventually would end more than 18,000 taxes that the participating countries have placed on American exports. The TPP’s benefits for U.S. are evident. What will be the benefits of the countries which U.S. forced to sign the TPP is not clear. The end of tariffs placed on American exports does not mean an end of the taxes for the goods produced in other participating countries. Creation of new jobs in the United States will automatically affect the workplace in the signatory-countries – Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam.

With the TPP, U.S. is establishing an international trade and economic organization that pursues to create a free trade area in Asia-Pacific as an alternative to ASEAN and APEC. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is part of U.S. efforts to keep control over the Pacific and create an economic bloc to resist the growing influence of China and Russia in the above regions. This U.S. initiative was met with a mixed reception in the signatory-countries. To grasp it, have a look at the statement by Nurul Izzah Anwar, a Malysian parliamentarian, on the TPP: “This is especially frightening as it allows foreign corporations to circumvent laws and regulations enacted by our Government in public interest such as those pertaining to natural resource, environmental protection, and health policies.” The Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Accord has opponents in U.S. too. The Republican front-runner, Donald J. Trump, called it “a terrible deal.” He is sure that it will affect the American companies. “That's the tool all these countries are using to beat us,” he said. Trump stressed that the deal would encourage US companies to move their production abroad, weakening U.S. domestic job market. “Our leaders are incompetent. They’re babies,” he added. “Most nations don’t respect us.”

Meantime, the U.S. president with his statements confirms a different point of view. Obama does not conceal the imperial ambitions of the United States. With the help of this TPP Accord U.S. and Japan as stronger economies will gain new developing markets. Many do not believe that TPP is a method to develop the economies in Asia-Pacific region. Look at NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement). it resulted in low-paid jobs and curtailment of salaries in countries with developing economies. Malaysia, Peru and Vietnam may be most affected countries as they are the weakest countries of the TPP. The agreement will meet the interests of the United States, first, and the interest of Japan, second. Obama made a statement on the conclusion of TPP, while the other 13 presidents made their statements in a joint press release. Japan has confirmed the rumors about its arrangements made with U.S. yet before Obama’s speech.

Many say U.S. looks to hinder China’s economic development also by rallying the Asia Pacific states, except China, round the flag. For instance, former prime minister of Malaysia Mahathir Mohamad shares these views. Russia’s former ambassador to Tokyo, Head of Diplomacy Department at MGIMO (Moscow State University of International Relations) Alexander Panov thinks the TPP may affect China: “China is creating its own free trade area. Actually, two economic and trade partnerships will emerge and start competing. Today’s announcement is a kind of step towards splitting the region into economic blocs.”

At APEC Summit in Beijing on Nov 9-11 2014, China disallowed America’s dictatorship. It came out with an initiative and suggested creating a new Asian Bank and the Silk Road Economic Belt. It made U.S. speed up efforts towards conclusion of TPP. One can see that U.S. is going to close or limit the sales markets for China in the Pacific region anyway. How do Nansha Islands come into the picture? The problem of the South China Sea and Nansha is not of economic or ideological nature. It is not even connected with gas or oil interests of U.S. This problem is of strategic nature.

Vasily Kashin, a China defense industry specialist from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology, a Moscow-based research center, says: 25% of total trade in commodities, 25% of total oil and one third of total volume of liquefied gas shipments are through South China Sea and Strait of Malacca, which is 2.5km-wide at the narrowest point. Nearly 60% of China’s total foreign trade is through South China Sea. Dependence of arteries from other regional economies - Japan, South Korea, and Australia - that pass through it is even higher here. Japan receives nearly 80% of imported energy resources through South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca. The threats to close or hamper shipments through the South China Sea and the Strait of Malacca have their solid place in the strategic planning of the region’s countries. The region’s biggest power - China – pays ultimate attention to these problems.”

Now, it is clear why Beijing so promptly and harshly reacted to U.S naval warship USS Lassen illegally patrolling near Nansha Islands. The harshest statements came on October 29, when Admiral Wu Shengli, commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, warned U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson in a teleconference of dire consequences of that incident: “Contrary to Chinese warnings in advance of the navigation operation, the Lassen, a guided missile destroyer, passed through the sea within 12 miles of the Nansha islands,” Wu Shengli said highlighting that such actions of U.S. endangered the sovereignty and security of China and the peace and stability in the region. He called the U.S. actions extremely provocative and dangerous.

“If the United States continues with these kinds of dangerous, provocative acts, there could well be a seriously pressing situation between frontline forces from both sides on the sea and in the air, or even a minor incident that sparks war,” the statement paraphrased Wu as saying.

In addition, U.S. Ambassador to Beijing Max Bokus was invited to the Chinese Foreign Ministry for explanations. Lu Kan, a representative of the Ministry warned that U.S. actions violate China’s sovereignty, endanger security of the staff and infrastructures on the Islands, and threaten peace and security in the region.

Let's explain about what China reminded to U.S.

In late 2013, China launched preparations in the Nansha water zone. In summer 2014, they launched large-scale hydro-technical and construction activities to expand and use the territories under control of China. In particular, on the Subi and Mischief reefs Chinese military builders have created artificial islands. Similar activities are carried out on other islands and reefs of Nansha too. On some artificial islands China has already built air strips, lighthouse and other facilities, deployed frontier guards, coastal security etc. Actually, Admiral Wu Shengli’s threats were serious. Chinese military will open fire if there is such order by the Supreme Command.

Let’s wait and see if the illegal patrolling of U.S. warships near Nansha was part of the TPP Accord or it was U.S. response to the Chinese warships that approached Syria’s shores. So far, it is evident that U.S. has returned to the idea of undermining the stability in the pacific after failed efforts to turn Syria into a ‘chaotic’ campaign of disturbing peace. It is clear that Russia’s leadership will sooner or later react to this too. Perhaps, Beijing and Washington are looking forward for Russia’s response. Apparently, Russia’s reconnaissance has tackled the situation – on November 2, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry invited Russia and China to join TPP on Washington’s terms...

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