On China, Russia, and the downing of MH17
July 23, 2014
Now we know that when push comes to shove, China will be on the side of Russia. And so, China’s President Xi Jinping has come to the rescue of beleaguered Russian President Vladimir Putin from the world’s growing condemnation of his country’s alleged role in the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over the Kremlin-backed rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine.
By taking the side of Russia on the conflict and blaming the West for the escalating violence in Ukraine, China is being self-serving and disingenuous.
What is the truth? The truth is, the Americans did not shoot down the plane. The terrorists did. Period!
What happened was a terroristic act committed against civilian passengers who in the course of their short private and public lives died violent deaths simply because some trigger-happy punks premeditated to inflict their ferocious and violent tempers against airborne targets. For me, the MH17 tragedy is a basic issue of international law and human rights violations that warrants a call for justice and swift global actions against the perpetrators.
Why then blame the US? Why scapegoat the Ukrainian pro-government forces? Why not investigate those who are supported and supplied by Moscow with missiles to bring down planes in rebel-held areas?
Consider this. Before the MH17 shoot-down, three Ukrainian Air Force planes had already been shot down in eastern Ukraine since June 2014. Two planes were brought down by MANPADS (man-portable air-defense systems), a small shoulder-fired launcher with an altitude range of 11,500 feet. The third plane was hit at a higher altitude of 22,000 feet while Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was hit at 33,000 feet. Since both planes were felled outside the range of MANPADS, it is alleged that the missiles had been likely fired using a Buk surface-to-air missile system with an altitude range of about 50,000 feet.
In the context of what has been happening in that area, there is no conceivable reason why anyone should blame the US or Ukraine for those shoot-downs. But why take the side of Russia Why blame the US?For me, there is only one compelling reason—China’s decision to protect and co-opt a formidable partner in its calculated effort to undermine US power and influence in the world. In a reciprocal way, Russia may well serve that purpose.
While it is true that occasionally China and Russia would have a falling-out because of border and energy disputes, nonetheless, those intermittent flare-ups have not dampened their unitary resolve to strengthen themselves and their coalitions for the most fundamental objective—to rival, if not to unseat, the US as the undisputed superpower in the world. And China will grab every opportunity to point the finger at the US at every turn.
Lately, China seems to be on track on the road to gaining the dominant status. To date, here is a list of some of its calculated moves.
It dominates the BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), a relatively new association of five major developing economies which represent almost half of the world’s population and about 18 percent of the world’s economy. For China, BRICS is not only an alternative to western-dominated economic system, but also, a clout of dominance among regions traditionally within the US sphere of influence. Interestingly, the BRICS group has now moved to bring together countries traditionally seen as US backyard, i.e., Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, and other Latin America nations, into its fold by providing them an economic and political alternative to US influence in the region.
In the South China Sea, China is unstoppable in indiscriminately establishing its unilateral maritime nine-dash-line at the expense of littoral states such as Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and Taiwan. In East China Sea, China is allowed to implement its unilaterally-declared ADIZ (Air Defense Identification Zone) at the expense of Japan and South Korea. In the absence of consequences for its bad behavior, China now operates in these regions with carte blanche.
Recently, at RIMPAC 2014 (The Rim of the Pacific Naval Exercise) China was invited by the US to take part in the naval drill together with 22 other guest nations. Not content with participating in goodwill as a guest, China sent an uninvited electronic surveillance ship off the coast of Hawaii to monitor the US-led naval exercise. What is China’s alibi? It has the right under international law to operate outside of other countries’ territorial waters. No matter how China justifies its action, for me, it is nothing but “bad manners.” And no one is doing anything about it.
Sometimes I wonder, where does the Beijing spirit of bravado emanate from? Where does its sense of disrespect come from? Is it its newfound status as one of the fastest growing economies? Is it its huge market that everyone wishes to penetrate? I am sure Beijing realizes its growing economic clout. But it also realizes that economically a stable world is better than a destabilized world. Thus, it is not in its long-term economic interest to be tagged as a bully of its neighbors or typecasted as a perpetrator of bad manners at the world’s stage.
I am not sure what it is really but there’s something that piqued my mind. I just recalled a pictorial trope that perhaps only a Chinese can imagine. It is an old metaphor that the late Mao Tse Tung used to describe America’s power—paper tiger! As he aptly puts it: “In appearance it is very powerful but in reality it is nothing to be afraid of… it is made of paper, unable to withstand the wind and the rain. I believe that it is nothing but a paper tiger.”
Perhaps, its meaning may still resonate today. Not of course, in terms of America’s actual military might or economic market but in terms of America’s penchant for turning a blind eye to China’s unbridled arrogance and aggression.
Will America end up being slowly isolated from many regions of the world? Will America eventually fall as the undisputed superpower in the world? It is a possibility. And if we base that possibility today on how America tolerates China’s unchecked expansionism and bad behavior with the soft glove of restraint and indecision, I share the apprehension that if it ever falls, it will not fall from the wounds inflicted by others but from its own self-inflicted wounds.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of this website.