China: Oil War Off Okinawa

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October 24, 2005: Retired Taiwanese military officers have gone public with a long ignored scandal. The former officers detailed the extent of corruption in the military, and how it wastes money and degrades the military capabilities of the armed forces. Such corruption is an ancient problem in Chinese culture, and it's impact on the Communist Chinese military has long been openly discussed. But the Taiwanese, because they have been trained and influenced by the Americans, were believed immune to the "disease." But in reality, there are all manner of shady Taiwanese deals involving kickbacks and theft. But most of the Taiwanese corruption is done quietly, and in ways that are hard to detect. But U.S. military advisors have been urging, for decades, that the Taiwanese military increase their efficiency and readiness. The Taiwanese, however, have come to believe that, no matter what they do with their own military, the Americans will rescue them. Taiwanese believe that their economy, especially the production of electronic components, is too critical to the American economy, for the Americans to risk allowing a Chinese invasion to succeed.

October 17, 2005: China continues to battle against the Internet, and its ability to spread news the government does not approve of. For most Chinese Internet users, the government has been successful in blocking news sites the communist bureaucrats do not approve of. Now, resources have turned towards policing blogs, bulletin boards and chat rooms. This is labor intensive, with software searching for suspicious words and phrases, then security officials have to double check before those in charge of the blogs, bulletin boards or chat rooms get a warning or, for repeat offenders, a visit from the police. Repeat offenders are getting arrested, but the word gets around, and the smart operators have switched to email lists and text messaging on their cell phones. The government has now made it illegal or organize an illegal meeting via the Internet or cell phone. It's also illegal to promote any illegal groups (like Falungong) or try to maintain your anonymity on the Internet. But this is all playing out like the American record companies suing people caught illegally downloading music. It makes headlines, but does nothing to stop the downloading. The communist leadership is quite frightened of this new form of communication. They have seen the Internet and cell phones quickly mobilize street demonstrations, and create rapid shifts in public opinion (measurable via government authorized opinion polls). Unable to reliably control what news the public gets, the government lives in fear of some anti-government ideas getting lose, and going out of control. The government knows how powerful the media can be, which is why they are so dismayed at how the Internet is eroding their control of it.

October 14, 2005: A Chinese oil drilling platform, in disputed waters halfway between China and the Japanese island of Okinawa, is producing natural gas, and maybe oil, despite ongoing negotiations over who owns what in that patch of ocean. The Chinese have spent two years building that platform, in waters claimed by Japan. A second platform is almost finished, as is an underwater oil pipeline for both platforms. China regularly sends groups of warships to patrol the area, to underline their belief that this bit of water is under Chinese control. Japan would probably win any naval war with China, but since China has nuclear weapons, and Japan does not (at least not right now), such a war could go seriously against Japan. This has been brought up in Japan before, and it is feared that the issue may lead to Japan secretly, or openly, building nuclear weapons (which it could certainly do, and quite quickly.)

Negotiations have gone nowhere, and now Japan has been holding talks with the U.S. over military options. Japan is apparently ready to use force, for they have given a Japanese company a license to drill for oil in the same area the Chinese are operating. Japan would provide armed escorts for the Japanese drilling and construction teams.

 

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