April 25, 2012: The United States is directly involved in a territorial dispute between China and Japan. One of the disputed
Senkaku Islands has been used for American military exercises for decades and the U.S. has always ignored Chinese claims. China and Japan
have been squabbling over ownership
of the uninhabited Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea with increasing fervor. The Senkakus are actually islets, which are 167 kilometers northeast of Taiwan and 426 kilometers southeast of Japan's Okinawa and have a total area of 6.3 square kilometers. Taiwan also claims the Senkakus, which were discovered by Chinese fishermen in the 16th century and taken over by Japan in 1879. They are valuable now because of the 380 kilometer economic zone nations can claim in their coastal waters. This includes fishing and possible underwater oil and gas fields. A conservative Japanese political group built a lighthouse on one of the rocks in 1986, to further claims of Japanese ownership. Currently, the Japanese have the most powerful naval forces in the region and are backed up by a mutual defense treaty with the United States. China was long dissuaded by that, but no more. China indicates that it will push its claims more forcefully.
The fallout from the removal from office of popular politician Bo Xilai continues with the arrest of a growing number of his political associates. The government is also concerned that Bo still has a lot of popular support, even though the government has used state controlled media to depict him as a corrupt and devious official. Bo was arrested mainly for corruption, but nearly all senior officials are tainted by that (either personally or because of family ties to criminal activity). Bo Xilai was nailed because he did not keep the corrupt activities of his wife and other kin quiet. Bo was also targeted because he was a rare official who preached a return to communist ideals, while also delivering better government in the southwestern city of Chongqing (population 28 million). Bo Xilai was in conflict with the majority of the Chinese leadership, who have accepted that communism in China is dead in fact, if not in fiction. Bo Xilai thought his well-publicized efforts to deliver more efficient government would start a nationwide movement to restore communism, but it only united the national leadership against him. At the top, the leadership agrees that corruption could eventually evolve into a major rebellion, as it has done many times in the past. Chinese leaders have long paid close attention to Chinese history, noting that certain patterns tend to repeat themselves time and again. Too much corruption triggering a major rebellion is one of those common patterns and the Chinese leaders are desperately seeking a solution. The desperation stems from the fact that nearly all the senior Chinese officials are, well, "dirty" as are many in their kin. Whatever the solution is, it won't be easy to implement.
The Bo Xilai also reminded the senior leadership that corruption in the military is also growing and seriously compromising the ability of the government to actually use military force. Bo Xilai was on close terms with many corrupt generals, and government investigators are trying to determine just how close, and extensive, those relationships were.
Taiwan is pushing to purchase four Perry class frigates from the United States. These ships are being retired by the Americans, who are under increasing Chinese pressure to not sell weapons to Taiwan. For decades China has been applying this pressure and by using China's growing economic power and more effective lobbying efforts in the United States, the Chinese are succeeding. Many American political and business leaders now oppose weapons sales to Taiwan.
April 24, 2012: The U.S. accused China of selling North Korea a large transport vehicle that the North Koreans modified to carry their latest long-range missile. The Chinese truck manufacturer admitted this and said it was not illegal because the truck was designed to haul non-military cargo but, as is the case with many "dual-use" technologies, could easily be adapted to military use. The Chinese manufacturer added that the truck in question was also an excellent vehicle and there were many satisfied users.
April 22, 2012: China and Russia began a major naval training exercise off the Chinese coast. Dozens of ships and aircraft from both countries were involved. All this was done under the auspices of the SCO
(Shanghai Cooperation Organization), a mutual defense operation (Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan are members, with Mongolia, Pakistan, India, and Iran as associate members or "observers"). China joined to extend its diplomatic, economic, and military influence into Central Asia. This vast area used to be part of Russia (as the Soviet Union). Russia doesn't like this Chinese expansion, but the former parts of the Soviet Union, that are now independent states, like China acting as a counterweight to Russia (which many fear will try to regain its Central Asian territories). Russia has allied itself with China because both nations oppose Western efforts to spread democracy and freedom.
At the same time, Russia was holding major air exercises off northern Japan, deploying 40 heavy bombers, armed with cruise missiles, to demonstrate what might happen to Japan should the Japanese ever try to retake the disputed Kuril Islands (owned by Japan until after World War II when Russia took them as compensation for losing a war with Japan in 1905).
April 20, 2012: For the second time in a week Taiwanese police have arrested a Taiwanese and charged him with spying for China.
April 19, 2012: India successfully tested an Agni V ballistic missile. This is a solid fuel missile that has a maximum range of 5,000 kilometers and a payload of one ton. This missile can hit targets in Russia, China, Europe (Italy and points east), Japan, and Africa. China dismissed this as no threat, but Indian pundits were quick to point out that both China and India could now bombard each other with nuclear missiles. Most Agni Vs will apparently be aimed at China. Agni V is a solid fuel missile, meaning it can be fired on short notice and compact enough to be moved around on a truck to avoid surprise attack. Agni V is still in development and needs more (5-6) successful tests before it is ready for mass production and regular service (sitting in a silo for years at a time, tended by a small crew of technicians). This will give India more leverage, and confidence, in its dealings with China. In addition, India is forming closer military ties with other Chinese neighbors, particularly Japan. This bothers China a great deal because Japan has one of the largest and most effective fleets in East Asia.
Taiwan conducted a military drill in which Taiwanese paratroopers dropped near a Taiwanese airbase and the airbase security personnel had to scramble to deal with the threat. Taiwan frequently holds such drills dealing with possible Chinese invasion.
In Tibet two more Tibetans set themselves on fire to protest Chinese migration to Tibet and Chinese attempts to destroy Tibetan culture. In the last few years 35 Tibetans have burned themselves to death in protest but the world is not really paying attention. There was a major uprising in 2008, which was quickly and brutally put down. Areas where Tibetan resistance is most active are flooded with additional police and the Chinese troops stand ready to crush anymore insurrections. The Chinese plan for cultural assimilation of the Tibetans proceeds. This is how the Chinese empire has expanded for thousands of years, and all around the periphery of China there are unassimilated groups, most of them too small to bother with. The Tibetans are numerous enough to target for cultural assimilation.
April 9, 2012:
A Philippines Navy patrol ship caught a Chinese fishing boat illegally operating off Scarborough Shoal. Although the shoal is 200 kilometers off the Philippines coast (as in Subic Bay, near the Filipino capital), more distant China claims it and just about everything else in the South China Sea. Before the Philippines sailors could arrest the Chinese fishermen, two Chinese patrol boats showed up and the warships have been in a stand-off ever since. The fishing boats slipped away at night. Both countries kept sending more small warships to the scene of the confrontation, with both sides demanding the other withdraw.