Edward Cody's "China Builds A Smaller, Stronger Military" in today's WP delivers an important piece of the progressive national security argument. China, driven by its rising internal demand for oil supplies, now looks at Taiwan not only as an nationalist issue, but as as a strategic necessity. Effective possession of Taiwan would help secure 80 percent of Chinese oil supply routes. Taiwan would also secure the deep-water Pacific ports needed to ensure a reliable nuclear deterrent against the United States.
But the expansion of China's interests abroad, particularly energy needs, has also broadened the military's mission in recent years. Increasingly, according to foreign specialists and Chinese commentators, China's navy and air force have set out to project power in the South China Sea, where several islands are under dispute and vital oil supplies pass through, and in the East China Sea, where China and Japan are at loggerheads over mineral rights and several contested islands.
China has acquired signals-monitoring facilities on Burma's Coco Islands and, according to U.S. reports, at a port it is building in cooperation with Pakistan near the Iranian border at Gwadar, which looks out over tankers exiting the Persian Gulf. According to a report prepared for Rumsfeld's office by Booz Allen Hamilton, the consulting firm, China has developed a "string of pearls" strategy, seeking military-related agreements with Bangladesh, Cambodia and Thailand in addition to those with Burma and Pakistan.
Against this background, unifying Taiwan with the mainland has become more than just a nationalist goal. The 13,500-square-mile territory has also become a platform that China needs to protect southern sea lanes, through which pass 80 percent of its imported oil and tons of other imported raw materials. It could serve as a base for Chinese submarines to have unfettered access to the deep Pacific, according to Tsai, Taiwan's deputy defense minister. "Taiwan for them now is a strategic must and no longer just a sacred mission," Lin said.
Yesterday in TomPaine.com, Michael Klare explained how the Bush administration is mirror-imaging the Chinese "string of pearls" strategy. Our redeployment away from the heavy bases of Western Europe and Korea and toward "forward operating locations" in Southeast Asia, Central Asia and Africa are designed to secure oil assets.
For progressives, this reiterates the folly of reliance on a fossil-fuel economy, particularly oil. America currently consumes 25 percent of the global oil supply, and China is second and closing in. Rising demand inevitably pits the United States against the Chinese.
What is the alternative? A progressive grand strategy would first end our reliance on oil—altogether. Between the security issues, global warming and the transfer of funds to Islamic extremists, oil is a losing proposition. The Rocky Mountain Institute has shown how to get off oil completely in 25 years, so it is more than possible.
Then we align our national security strategy to deal with a world ridding itself of energy competition. It's pretty simple and pragmatic.
| Tuesday 9:20 AM