ASEAN Centrality at Risk

October 30, 2016

ASEAN Centrality at Risk as Member States succumb to China’s Diplomacy

by Amb Dennis Ignatius

Image result for China and ASEAN--A New Partnership

ASEAN is China’s New Strategic Partner in Economic Development

At the height of the Cultural Revolution, “The East is Red,” became the de facto national anthem of the People’s Republic of China. The composer, reportedly a farmer from Shaanxi province, had, of course, no way of knowing that his song was in fact a harbinger of things to come.

Some fifty something years later, “The East is Red” is more than an old song; it has become a disquieting political and economic reality.hina has certainly come a long way from the days of the Cultural Revolution.

Today, it is a massive economic and political behemoth with equally massive regional and global ambitions. Its new leaders have long since abandoned the veneer of modesty and respect for diplomatic niceties it adopted when it was seeking to gain acceptance in the region.

China’s new rulers are now focused on the single-minded pursuit of regional hegemony as the first step in their quest for global supremacy.

A giant economic footprint

Nothing better illustrates China’s ambitions than its frenzied regional investment strategy. When viewed as a whole, the investment projects scattered across the region paint a picture of a country determined to use its wealth and economic influence to decisively dominate the region.

Consider, for example, the ambitious “One Belt, One Road” or New Silk Road initiative which, among other goals, aims to position China as the hub of the entire region.

Image result for “One Belt, One Road” Initiative

Stripped of all the rhubarb, it’s really a neo-mercantilist strategy of opening markets for China’s excess industrial capacity, making the yuan Asia’s international currency of choice, and cementing China’s economic dominance of the region.

In pursuit of its ambitions, Chinese state corporations are currently engaged in a staggering array of infrastructure projects, especially rail projects, in Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

China is also building a deep sea port in Myanmar which will give it direct access to the Indian Ocean. The project involves the construction of an oil pipeline as well that will allow Middle East crude to be offloaded in Myanmar and then transported overland to China, bypassing the Straits of Malacca. A third of all Myanmar’s foreign investments already come from China.

In Laos, Chinese investments already exceed USD31 billion, a sum larger than the country’s GDP. China also built, financed and launched Laos’s only communications satellite. In neighbouring Cambodia, Chinese companies completely dominate the country’s special economic zone.

Image result for Singapore and China

Singapore, for its part, plays host to more than 7500 Chinese companies; its status as a banking and financial centre in Southeast Asia is increasingly dependent on China’s regional economic plans.

In Indonesia, China may already be the largest foreign investor if investments through subsidiaries based in other countries are taken into account. Indonesia’s Investment Coordinating Board expects to secure Chinese investments worth USD30 billion in 2016, doubling to USD60 billion the following year.

Bandar Malaysia – China’s new regional capital

Image result for Bandar Malaysia – China’s new regional capital

Bandar Malaysia Project

Malaysia, vulnerable, exposed and ripe for exploitation as a consequence of the massive 1MDB scandal, is set to be the jewel in the crown of China’s ambitious regional agenda. In exchange for a Chinese bailout, significant national assets and lucrative contracts are being handed over to China in a series of murky deals.

China Railway has been awarded both the RM7.13 billion (USD1.71b) Gemas-Johor Baru electrified double-tracking rail project and the RM55 billion (USD13.2b) East Coast Railway project and is a shoo-in for the RM60 billion (USD14.4b) Kuala Lumpur-Singapore High Speed Railway project as well.

And this comes after China was awarded the RM43 billion (USD10b) Malacca Gateway Project (deep-sea port and ocean park) and the main contract for the first package of the second Penang Bridge project (the longest bridge in Southeast Asia).

One has to wonder whether someone somewhere is dreaming up these projects just for China’s benefit? Is there some secret agreement giving China a lock on all mega-infrastructure projects in Malaysia?

The biggest catch of all, however, is expected to be the Bandar Malaysia project, a colossal monument to avarice and arrogance. With an expected gross development value of RM160 billion (USD38.36b), it will feature the world’s largest underground city, shopping malls, indoor theme parks, a financial centre as well as the RM8.3 billion (USD1.9b) regional headquarters of China Railway.

When completed, it will turn the Malaysian capital into the most impressive Chinese railway station along the so-called Iron Silk Route linking Beijing with Singapore.

Malaysians haven’t as yet woken up to the monstrosity that is being foisted upon them.Bandar Malaysia, which will cost almost four times the reported cost of Putrajaya, the nation’s administrative capital, will distort the property market, add to the city’s already intolerable traffic congestion, reduce the city’s livability and see the introduction of thousands of PRC workers, contractors and staff.

No doubt much of the residential and office space at Bandar Malaysia will also be taken up by PRC nationals, already a growing presence in the local property market.

All in all, it is an outrageous crony project designed to benefit cronies, both local and foreign, at the expense of ordinary Malaysians. It serves China’s interest far more than it serves Malaysia’s.

And it would be naïve to believe that such massive investments will not translate into significant political and economic control especially given the almost total lack of transparency on most of these projects. At this rate, Malaysia may well find itself reduced to satrapy status within the emerging Chinese order with Bandar Malaysia the new Chinese regional capital.

ASEAN’s dependence on trade with China

Image result for asean and china economic cooperation

China also dominates regional trade; it has been ASEAN’s largest trading partner for the last seven consecutive years with trade growing at an annual rate of 18.5 percent. Last year China-ASEAN trade was valued at USD472 billion. It is expected to reach USD1 trillion by 2020. Bilaterally, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam and Laos all count China as their largest trading partner.

Again, such a commanding economic position coupled with critical control of national infrastructure assets across the region by state companies of a single nation will undoubtedly translate into unparalleled influence, power and control.

ASEAN nations are already so dependent upon China for their economic prosperity that they have no wriggle room left on most issues affecting China. The same can be said of many of the region’s corporations and business enterprises. Even the region’s academic institutions and think tanks have largely shied away from critical commentary on China for fear of being locked out of the web of lucrative Chinese-funded academic institutions, exchanges, grants and conferences.

Finding common cause with autocrats and corrupt politicians

China’s ascendency has also been facilitated by the rise of illiberal leaders in the region who depend upon China for support and cover in the face of international opprobrium and domestic unpopularity.

Beijing has, for example, long supported the military junta in Myanmar while securing for itself privileged economic access. It is also the Thai junta’s staunchest ally while Malaysia’s leader, faced with a scandal that is being investigated by several international jurisdictions for corruption and money laundering, is regularly feted in Beijing as a special friend.

Indeed, Najib is set to make yet another visit to Beijing next week, his sixth since becoming Prime Minister in 2009. The visit will decisively shift Malaysia into China’s orbit.

Unsurprisingly, as well, Beijing has also endorsed President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous campaign against drug pushers at a time when he is facing international condemnation for his actions.

ASEAN effectively neutralized

Taken together, the growing economic and political reliance on China has also given China the upper hand on the South China Sea file.

Malaysia, for example, is so fearful of offending China that it regularly goes out of its way to play down persistent Chinese incursions into its waters and the harassment of Malaysian fishermen. While the Chinese aggressively press their claims, Malaysia dithers and pretends that its “special relationship” with China will keep it safe from Chinese ambitions.

The Philippines, having won a landmark victory at the Hague, now appears to have recklessly squandered its advantage for the better relations with Beijing (and perhaps to foolishly spite the Americans).

Beijing’s terms for a restoration of relations with Manila, however, might prove costly to the Philippines.

In a Xinhua report issued on the eve of Duterte’s recent visit to China, it was stated in no uncertain terms what Duterte would need to do to regain Beijing’s favour: abandon “the farcical South China Sea arbitration case brought by Duterte’s predecessor against China… avoid his predecessor’s idiosyncrasies of colluding with outside meddlers [read the US] and making unnecessary provocations [read challenging China’s claims].”

It went on to add that the Philippines must accept dialogue and negotiations over confrontation, conveniently overlooking the fact that it is China who is the aggressor, not the Philippines.

The implications are clear enough both for the Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations: good relations with China must be premised upon an acceptance of Beijing’s maritime claims, an end to close military cooperation with the US and a commitment to engage in meaningless and open- ended dialogue that allows China to pretend that it is a responsible international actor.

ASEAN, which was formed to leverage its strength as a group when dealing with bigger powers, is now proving itself to be hopelessly dysfunctional in dealing with China.

Insisting that territorial disputes must be settled bilaterally (where it is able to exploit its asymmetrical advantage to the fullest), China, with the help of its proxies, Cambodia and Laos, successfully stymied ASEAN efforts to take a firm stand on the issue.

Astonishingly, the Philippines Foreign Secretary called the Vientiane debacle “a victory for ASEAN.” If that was victory, what does defeat look like?

In any case, only the most gullible will believe that China is really interested in negotiations, bilateral or otherwise; it is simply buying time while it changes the facts on the ground and militarizes its positions in the South China Sea.

By keeping silent, waffling and pretending that somehow China is open to negotiations, ASEAN is simply acquiescing in a Chinese takeover of the entire South China Sea. It is also proving the hawks in Beijing right that strong-arm tactics work, that ASEAN does not have the courage to stand up to Beijing.

Witness also the timorous silence of ASEAN leaders with regard to the US policy of vigorously challenging China’s threats to impose exclusion zones in the South China Sea. Though ASEAN leaders are too spineless to admit it, the US navy is now all that stands in the way of de facto Chinese control of the South China Sea.

Instead of backstabbing the only country that can help keep the region open and free, as President Duterte of the Philippines appears to be doing, ASEAN leaders should augment US efforts by insisting that China demonstrate its own sincerity by committing to a meaningful code of conduct, respecting the recent Hague ruling, and ceasing the militarization of disputed islands.

But, of course, China has so thoroughly neutered ASEAN that such a course of action is now unthinkable.

The triumph of the Middle Kingdom

More than forty years ago, Southeast Asian leaders had a sense of foreboding about China. Even as they moved to normalize relations with China, they knew that there was going to be nothing normal about dealing with China. Nevertheless, they had hoped that they could foster close economic relations with China without being overwhelmed by it. They also felt confident that they could contain Chinese ambitions within a regional balance of power framework.

Clearly they underestimated the Middle Kingdom and the perfidy of their own successors.

Overdependence on China for investments and trade and the treachery of corrupt politicians have now rendered ASEAN completely vulnerable to Chinese hegemony.

The East is Red! ASEAN might as well hang its logo on the Chinese flag to reflect this new reality.

Dennis Ignatius is a 36-year veteran of the Malaysian Foreign Service and has served in London, Beijing and Washington besides serving as High Commissioner for Malaysia to Canada from 2001 to June 2008.

25 thoughts on “ASEAN Centrality at Risk

  1. Anyone who has dealt with the Chinese, whether with the overseas variety or the originals, it is all about business. And the originals, or at least their present leadership, do mean business, albeit with a thin, very thin,veneer of ritualistic communism if they know what it means anymore.

    Recently I made a trip to Shanghai and its surrounding regions on a conducted 8 days 7 nights tour. It was dirt cheap and everyone I talked to said it was unbelievably inexpensive considering we stayed at 4 Star hotels all the way.

    I wondered why, and I got the answer when the China tour guide told us that the Chinese government subsidies part of the costs of any tour group from any part of the World if the tour members are overseas Chinese.

    Why? I leave you to speculate.

  2. “Chins’s new rulers are now focused on the single-minded pursuit of regional hegemony as the first step in their quest for global supremacy”

    When a writer begins with such an astonishingly simplistic line, there is not much point in reading what follows…

    China…global supremacy? C’mon man, where are you coming from?

  3. I have no problem about doing business with China or any other nation. But we must ensure that the deals done by Malaysia with China are completely above board and beneficial to the people. Najib has such a bad reputation that his deals do not meet this test. The best way for him to overcome this suspicion is for him to disclose all details of these deals to Parliament. My bet is that he won’t.

    This tipuing Perdana Menteri is just a crook. What do you think, CLF–Din Merican

  4. I have shared a long post in previous entry. @isa, I am sorry that many have confused the 中 in China to mean the center of the universe, forgetting that it should mean mediator in Confucianism. It is oxymoron to mediate when it is the center. As much as I didn’t like TunM, I do begin to see the wisdom in his Melayu Dilemma today. There is a poetic beauty to Layu-layu bersama-sama today.

    I am looking at birds in the sky, lilies on the field,and take joy in their presence each day now. Days of Bunga Emas is today.

  5. Let’s concentrate on Malusia, without the rest of SNAFU ASEAN okay?
    The main problems we have is one of ‘perception of a kleptocracy’ (haha) and thus the gross mismanagement of the economy.

    One Despicable Couple to blame here. Jibros doesn’t care about the future – they are doing everything possible, including selling off Tanah Pusaka and our Economic-Diplomatic Independence, to survive from moment to moment. Forget about the Past and Future.

    Our Malaysian Chinapek Taikors have shifted their hoards to the West due to a massive Crisis in Confidence and absolute Trust Deficit in the clueless, yet a malign PM-UMNOb governance. No other Takers in the Horizon. Plenty of Fakers.

    No adjectives are sufficient to describe the economic FUBAR we are facing now – where FDIs’ are tanking, the current account is diminishing and pension funds are being raided to bail out to service out-right banditry and thuggery. GST is just a by-word here and the Forex is abysmal..

    The country needs cash – and fast. The Treasury is POKKAI!! Have you heard?

    Anyone out there really believe the FinMin, Bank Negara and MITI, much less the Pemandu creative figures? MIDA/Matrade/SMEC are no longer allowed to give press releases about the ‘health’ of our exports! Our industrial output is stymied by labor shortages and inefficiencies, while commodities aren’t about to recover anytime soon.

    Our Food Security is beholden to everyone else except our own abject Malusian farmers and fishing folk. The food imports are staggering and i challenge anyone to say these are ‘Capital Goods’.

    So Where the Eff are we getting our sources to cover the humongous deficits? ChinaPEK! Those Kafir Harbi Commie-Capitalists!

    PRC SOEs’ will Extract their Pound of Flesh when the Time comes – so all those Bahasa Melayu hard-ons will no longer be be memorizing the Quran day in, day out – but attending Mandarin courses. “Ni hau mah?”

    That’s why a Banana bloke like me shall start an Officious Mandarin International School based on the PRC curriculum in Bandar Malusia. Pragmatic eh..? Be Always Prepared.

  6. An Unrealistic mischievous piece of oversimplified conjectured assertions on Chinà behaviors, historical or otherwise –with little or no substantive central pointed evidence to stand on, tending to drive wedges rather create bridges

    ASEAN Central objectives of ” Shared Benefits,Responsibity and Resources” are intact because it guarantees peace and prosperity, security and stability among themselves and other concerning parties,including China,USA , Japan or Australia.

  7. “When a writer begins with such an astonishing simplistic line, there is not much point in reading what follows….”

    Exactly. Somebody’s lapdog simply barking, at the wrong tree.

  8. //a Banana bloke like me shall start an Officious Mandarin International School based on the PRC curriculum in Bandar Malusia. Pragmatic eh..? Be Always Prepared.

    Why not? It is well known that it is easier for minorities to get into the best universities in China than Han Chinese. You might get kids from mainland wanting to do so. Best to do it in Johor’s new city that is being pushed like hot cake in China. At least mainland Chinese parents can have a peace of mind of mostly cleaner air, albeit the occasional smog from Indonesia.

  9. In 1Malaysia, in addition to the neo-fascist redshirt street thugs, a praetorian guard is also being formed, to hang on to power.

  10. Reading this piece is like reading a report by CNN, all about China bashing. When China is down from the start of the opium war, it is looked down upon, despise as scums, when it is rising, it is looked upon with suspicion.
    Ain’t no way to please the white-man and Dennis Ignatius.

  11. In life When you are structurally weak all will take advantage of you. We cannot argue on blended knees. The Eastern Europenc Countries for a long time paid homage to expropriation of property until they found out too late that the expropriators will eventually be expropriated. If you do not want to be exploited you have to study hard. From Standard One do your homework diligently listen to what your parents have to say and indulge in the process of life time learning.
    So Help Me God.

  12. Context 1</b
    “Canton, China, May 20 – In 1949, a few months before the Communists seized Canton, two Americans clambered out of rickshas at the entrance to a hotel in Shameen Island the old foreign quarter.

    In a boisterous mood, one American flung a handful of nearly worthless Chinese Nationalist currency into the air in payment for the ricksha fares. The other watched the sweating, panting ricksha men scramble in the dust for the bills and reflected on this humiliation brought on by war, government corruption and inflation.

    On returning to this teeming southern metropolis after two decades, one finds the face of society transformed. A new Canton man has emerged. His old verve and individuality seem to have yielded to passivity, but he also obviously lives better and carries himself with restored dignity.

    Old brawling Canton with its raucous downtown neon lights is gone. Also gone are the emaciated beggars who stood outside restaurants with outstretched palms and looked in at banquet tables where most of refulgent dishes were left unconsumed by the rich. Forgotten are the brothels where round-faced girls with flashing eyes and chattering birdlike voices insisted to rough foreign seamen on the civility of sipping tea ceremoniously before sex was dispensed.” [From ‘New York Times Report from Red China’ – AVON books, paperback-1971- collection of articles in New York Times by Tillman Durdin, Audrey Topping, Seymour Topping and James Reston – Canton: A Society Transformed pg 140, by Seymour Topping]


    “ . . . it is a massive economic and political behemoth with equally massive regional and global ambitions.”

    Are we talking about the same country?

    Context 2
    “. . . Tianjin Meijian Convention and Exhibition Center — a massive, beautifully appointed structure . . . total floor area of 230,000 square meters (almost 2.5 million square feet) . . . construction . . . started on September 15, 2009, and was completed in May 2010 . . . Eight months . . . . It took China’s Teda Construction Group thirty-two weeks to build a world-class convention center from the ground up — including giant escalators in every corner — and it was taking the Washington Metro crew twenty-four weeks to repair two tiny escalators of twenty-one steps each . . . [p3-4]

    . . . . When the West won the Cold War, America lost the rival that had kept us sharp, outwardly focused, and serious about nation-building at home — because offering a successful alternative to communism for the whole world to see was crucial to our Cold War strategy. ¶ The Chinese were not like the citizens of the old Soviet Union, where, as the saying went, the people pretended to work and the government pretended to pay them. No, they were like us. They had a powerful work ethic and huge pent-up aspirations for prosperity — like a champagne bottle that had been shaken for fifty years and now was about to have its cork removed. You didn’t want to be in the way of that cork. Moreover, in parallel with the end of the Cold War, technology was flattening the global economic playing field, reducing the advantages of the people in the developed countries such as the United States, while empowering those in the developing one. . . . [p17-18]

    . . . . All the talk about China is likely to give any America over the age of forty a sense of déjà vu. After all, we faced a similar challenge from Japan in the 1980s. It ended with America still rising and Japan declining. It is tempting to believe that China today is just a big Japan. ¶ Unfortunately for us, China and the expansion of globalisation, to which its remarkable growth is partly due, are far more disruptive than that. Japan threatened one American city, Detroit, and two American industries: cars and consumer electronics. China — and globalisation more broadly — challenges every town in America and every industry . . . [p19]

    . . . . On August 15, 1971, the U.S. government put an end to the international monetary system that the United States and Great Britain devised at Bretton Woods . . . ‘When we collapsed Bretton Woods,’ argues (David) Stockman, ‘we took discipline out of the global economy. When the dollar was tied to fixed exchange rates, politicians were willing to administer the needed castor oil because the alternative was to make up for any trade shortfall by paying out our reserves, and this would cause immediate economic pain in the form of higher interest rate.’” [p177-178: from THAT USED TO BE US by T L Friedman and M Mandelbaum: 2011]

    Context 3
    “The prospect of a market collapse is a function of systemic rick independent of fundamental economic policy. The risk of market collapse is amplified by regulatory incompetence and banker greed. Complexity theory is the proper framework for analysing this risk. ¶ . . . Concluding that capital markets are complex systems has profound implications for regulation and risk management. The first implication is that proper measurement of risj is the gross notional value of derivatives, not the net amount. The gross size of all bank derivatives positions now exceeds $650 trillion, more than nine times global GDP . . . . [p11]

    . . . . The future international monetary system will not be based on dollars because China, Russia, oil-producing countries, and other emerging nations will collectively insist on an end to U.S. monetary hegemony and the creation of a new monetary standard . . . [p13]

    . . . . Andy Marshall . . . Director of the Office of Net Assessment in the office of Secretary of Defence . . . has held this position since 1973 . . . . leading theorist of the late twentieth-century ‘revolution in military affairs’ or RMA, which presaged radical changes in weaponry and strategy based on massive computing power, Precision-guided munitions, cruise missles, and drones are all part of RMA. . . . Marshall is no stranger to potential confrontation with China. In fact, he is the principal architect of the main U.S. battle plan for war with China in the western Pacific. This classified plan, called ‘Air-Sea Battle,’ involves blinding China’s surveillance capabilities and precision missiles followed up with massive air power and naval attacks. ¶ Marshall was not being briefed on kinetic weapons or air-sea tactics. He was hearing about sovereign wealth funds, stealth gold acquisition, and potential threats to national security caused by U.S. Federal Reserve Policy. ¶ China has over $3 trillion of investments denominated in U.S. dollars, and every 10 percent devaluation in the dollar engineered by the Fed represents $300 billion real wealth transfer from China to the United States. It is not clear how long China will tolerate this raid on its accumulated wealth. If China were not able to defeat the United States in the air or on the sea, it could attack through capital markets. . . . [p43-44]

    . . . . China’s actions in the bond and private equity markets are part of its long-term effort to operate in stealth, infiltrate critical nodes, and acquire valuable corporate information in the process. These financial efforts are proceeding side by side with malicious efforts in cyberspace and attacks on systems that control critical infrastructure, launched by China’s notorious military espionage Unit 61398. These combined efforts will prove useful to China in future confrontations with the United States. ¶ The United States is not supine when it comes to cyberwarfare; in fact U.S. cybercapabilities probably exceed those of the Chinese. Journalist Matthew Aid reported in 2013 on the most sensitive U.S. cyber operation of all, inside the National Security Agency:
    A highly secretive unit of the National Security Agency (NSA) . . . called the Office of Tailored Access Operations, or TAO, has successfully penetrated Chinese computer and telecommunications systems for almost 15 years, generating some of the best and most reliable intelligence information about what is going inside the People’s Republic of China . . . . [p53]

    . . . . A financial attack may be launched by accident during a routine software upgrade or drill. Capital markets almost collapsed in 1998 and 2008 without help from malicious actors, and the risk of a similar collapse in coming years, accidental or malicious, is distressingly high . . . . The Federal Reserve, having used up its dry powder printing over $3 trillion of new money since 2008, would have no capacity or credibility to do more. Social unrest and riots would follow. . . . ” [p63-64] [THE DEATH OF MONEY — The Coming Collapse of the International Monetary System; by James Rickards – 2014]

    Context 4
    “In the decades when China had little more than a coast guard, it was largely unware that the U.S. Navy was patrolling waters near its shores. But now that its capabilities are more advanced, it witnesses on a daily basis that the American navy is superior and operating only a few miles from many of China’s main cities. . . . [p26]

    . . . . ‘Since no nation threatens China, one wonders: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing large and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?’ The questions were raised by Donald Rumsfeld in 2005, when (he) was visiting Singapore . . . and his comments seemed another exercise in neocon scaremongering. . . . [p46]

    . . . . One technology in particular has attracted a lot attention. China has invested heavily in a new generation of so-called carrier-killer missiles, designed to destroy aircraft carriers at sea . . . The missiles, which supposedly cannot be detected by radar, have a range of fifteen hundred to two thousand kilometres . . . The implicit threat is that the commanders of American aircraft carriers would have to think carefully about operating anywhere within that radius from the Chinese coast — a fundamental challenge to the way America projects military power in the region. It is the first weapons system since the end of the Cold War that both is potentially capable of stopping American naval-power projection and was specifically for that purpose. The strategy also represents good economics. Each of its carrier-killer missiles cost around $11 million; a new aircraft carrier now costs $13.5 billion. [p 47]: THE CONTEST OF THE CENTURY — The New Era of Competition with China; by Geoff Dyer – 2015]

    Context 5
    . . . . “The Chinese leadership was concerned that, even as it was becoming more dependent upon the South China Sea, it was losing ground in the Spratlys. In June 1983, Malaysia had joined Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines by occupying reefs. The list of options for a navy seeking forward bases in the South China Sea was getting shorter. It was time for action and the moment was opportune”. . . . [p 81] [THE SOUTH CHINA SEA – The Struggle For Power in Asia; by Bill Hayton: 2014]

    Context 6
    . . . . “In the interim, the South China Sea has become an armed camp, even as the scramble for reefs is mostly over. China has confiscated twelve geographical features. Taiwan one, the Vietnamese twenty-one, the Malaysians five, and the Philippines nine . . . . China has built concrete helipads and military structures on seven reefs and shoals. On Mischief Reef, which China occupied under the nose of the Philippine navy in 1990s, China has constructed a three-story building and five octagonal concrete structures, all for military use. On Johnson Reef, China put up a structure armed with high-powered machine guns. Taiwan occupies Itu Aba Island, on which it has constructed dozens of buildings for military use, protected by hundreds of troops and twenty coastal guns. Vietnam occupies twenty-one islands on which it has built runways, piers, barracks, storage tanks, and gun emplacements. Malaysia and the Philippines, as stated, have five and nine sites respectively, occupied by naval detachments” . . . . [p12-13]: [ASIA’S CAULDRON – The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific; by Robert D Kaplan: 2014]

    The narratives of the 21st century, be they in geo-politics, finance, economics, banking, education, national security or governance have always been told by the West. I have commented earlier just to illustrate how the West have held a tight grip even on international banking and education — yes, in education where the narrative of inherited genes allowed conservative right-wingers from academia to allow their theory of academic excellence to be accessed by a small minority, leaving the vast majority of 11 year olds subjected to inferior educational provisions for close to fifty years, and all this because of big-time academic fraud! I am being self-serving here to redirect readers’ attention to two earlier postings in this Blog, namely:

    a) October 18, 2016 : The World Bank: Right Part of the Time and Wrong On Occasion on Malaysia:
    b) October 18, 2016: Excellence: A Point of View: [5] on23 Oct 2016 –

    Thirty-six years of presumably exemplary service, and one could still expound a view with blinkers on.

  13. Lot of PRC-Lovers here ya? Is it the Money or the Chauvinistic pride?
    I wonder whether it’s genetic? Not in my case ya..

    I couldn’t care less who rules PRC. It’s a System that has evolved into something that’s thoroughly materialistic, corrupt and contrived. Nothing good morally or ethically can come out of a ‘friendship’ that is so intricately tied in with economic expediency due to corruption and grand larceny.

    PRC is an opportunistic pathogen which flourishes in asymmetric relationships. The ‘Great Satan’ otoh, is a pathogen who lays it’s hypocrisy bare. The world needs countervailing forces, not terminally jaundiced ones.

    Dennis has every right to state his anxiety as to where our national and regional priorities and interests lie. Does anyone here really think that PRC’s investments here are due to their innate altruism, or that in one stroke all the religio-racist fascism by UMNOb will disappear?

    What exactly is in it for us as a ‘democracy’ or is it that you guys prefer propping up an outright kleptocracy and gangsterism?

    As we speak, the Aussies and Indonesians are about to challenge the PRC 9-dash hegemony with FoP joint naval exercises. What happened to ZOPFAN? Binned, as in all things metaphorical? Malu-lah..

  14. The Information Warfare of the Cold War has never ceased. The U.S. continues to promote propaganda and misinformation in pursuit of competitive advantage over the opponents.

    Dennis Ignatius spends most of his time nowadays living in the U.S. and Canada, I wonder if any of his “friends” approached him to write this article, given the embarrassing position the U.S. is in due to the Duterte phenomenon. And I wonder how much he got paid. Using a friendly Malaysian to write such article is a great strategy of “using the barbarian to fight the barbarian.”

    I heard many funny stories from friends in academia coming back from teaching or attending seminars in China, how they got “invited” by the F.B.I., C.I.A., and Homeland Security for “friendly chats.” America is a true democracy, indeed.

  15. After reading some of the comments I re-read the article and there was nothing in mind to change my opinion that it was a fairly good analysis of China’s political profile and its global intentions.

    For China, what it plans and undertakes in other countries to give it the strategic clout and control is still work in progress. Massive injection of capital in the construction of infrastructure projects like ports, railways, dams, electricity grids, malls and city centres etc often with soft loans at the lowest interest rates is a gesture of goodwill and friendly help – intended to reap political dividends at cheapest cost (after all you are getting back all the money you are putting in)

    China is doing all that through the economic route (aid) – a template opposed to land grab by past Western powers through Colonialism. The China train is still purring on.

    I sometimes wonder, if China lovers, are really serious of their appreciation and love for the mainland. Let us assume there erupts revolution in almost all Asean countries and given equal opportunity for all, where would the people prefer to flee to – China or Western countries? Until the equation changes, nothing changes.

    Unless and until China uses its military power against any Asean country in dispute over the South China Sea, one has to give the benefit of doubt to China. If that does not happen for a long time to come, we should not harbour any fear of China till then.

  16. In the 60s and 70s many Third World Countries got burnt by low interest of less than 3% yen denominated loans. Then the Yen appreciated by 100% and all the interest gains were wiped out. Ram ‘n’ bi.

  17. // In the 60s and 70s many Third World Countries got burnt by low interest of less than 3% yen denominated loans. Then the Yen appreciated by 100% and all the interest gains were wiped out. Ram ‘n’ bi.

    Mostly, we are building things we don’t need. Seriously, do we need a Menara Razak/Bandar Malaysia?

  18. Blame Najib and not China.

    China is stepping up its foothold here with more investments, big ticket infrastructure projects and import of its goods and products on an increasing scale. This trend, if continues, will give China more clout to influence the economic and political environment to its advantage in time to come.

    The Malaysian Chinese, feeling unprotected by UMNO and PAS, should welcome this development in the hope that another May 13th will never happen and China may ensure that.

  19. “. . . . Even as they moved to normalize relations with China, they knew that there was going to be nothing normal about dealing with China . . . . Clearly they underestimated the Middle Kingdom and the perfidy of their own successors. . . .”

    Questions: How would and how could normal relations be established between nations, and within what sort of time-frame? And what exactly do we mean by “normal”? Would the U.S. ever expect to achieve normal relations with Iran, at least from the point of view of the Iranians?

    Allow me to digress:

    From page 54 of The Death of Money: “ . . . financial warfare . . .is being waged between the United States and Iran, as the United States seeks to destabilize the Iranian regime by denying it access to critical payment networks. In February 2012 the United States banned Iran from U.S. dollar payments systems controlled by the Federal Reserve and the U.S. Treasury . . . In March 2012 the United States pressured (Belgium-based) SWIFT to ban Iran from its payments system . . . Iran was then officially cut off from participating in hard-currency payments or receipts with the rest of the world. The United States made no secret of its goals in the financial war against Iran . . . the objective of U.S. sanctions was to ‘cause depreciation of the rial and make it unusable in international commerce.’”

    Clearly much of what Southeast Asian nations went through after WWII and the ensuing Cold War was defined by the developed world, in particular the U.S. The U.S. remains, as a fact, the main protagonist in two wars in Asia, namely the Korean War and the Vietnam War — far away from its national shores. I shall make no further comments on the two wars which the United States waged to “defend” democracy, beyond saying that a momentous event took place in October 1971 when the PRC wrested back its rightful place in the United Nations. With China’s return to the U.N., it was show time by the United States to demonstrate that it could very well deal out actions to put a strain on normal relationship. Forget about big-time perfidy at home, and let us look at perfidy at the international level, which in the context of power-play between nations, must be accepted as a given, that is, something very normal!

    Perfidy 1.0 vis a vis current South China Sea issue:

    “. . . . On a trip to Beijing in November 1973, Kissinger told the Chinese that in the event of a Soviet attack the United States could supply ‘equipment and other services’. America, Kissinger said, could help improve communications between Beijing and the various Chinese bomber bases ‘under some guise’ . . . In other words, Kissinger secretly offered aid to the People’s Liberation Army . . . ¶ They said that American cooperation with early warning would be ‘intelligence of great assistance,’ but this had to be done in a manner ‘so that no one feels we are allies.’ With a mentality straight out of the Warring States era of ruthlessness and shifting alliances, China’s leaders were suspicious that Kissinger’s offer was an attempt to embroil China in a war with Moscow . . . . ” [p 64-65], and earlier on, on page 61, “. . . . Mao even put the Americans on the defensive by claiming that they were standing on China’s shoulders to get at Moscow . . . .” [THE HUNDRED YEAR MARATHON — China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower by Michael Pillsbury; 2015 – St. Martin’s Griffin, New York; 332 pages.]

    Perfidy 2.0

    “On 4 January 1974, President Thieu announced that war had restarted in Vietnam . . . . Just a week later a Chinese spokesman renewed Beijing’s sovereignty claim over the Paracels but hardly anyone in Saigon noticed. And if Washington had any inkling of what was coming, it didn’t let on. Mao Zedong’s vision was to secure a strategic fastness off China’s southern coast and enable the hunt for oil around the Paracels and beyond. Beijing’s relations with North Vietnam were deteriorating fast and South Vietnam had lost American support. January 1974 was a moment when the Beijing leadership could act without fearing the consequences. For Kissinger and Nixon, the fate of South Vietnams island possessions was much less important than the improving relations with China. A tacit US-China alliance would be much more significant to the outcome of the Cold War than whatever would happen in Saigon.” [p 72-73; THE SOUTH CHINA SEA – The Struggle For Power in Asia by Bill Hayton; Yale University Press 2014; 298 pages]

    Perfidy 3.0

    “One key point that Mr Lee would emphasise to American leaders was that China’s rise was unstoppable . . . it was in America’s interest to develop a constructive long-term policy of engaging with China. However, Mr Lee had earlier counselled Washington not to appease China. The essay by Kausikan recounts a remarkable episode in US-China relations. As Kausikan says:
    ‘In 1981, at the International Conference on Kampuchea held at the UN, the US was poised to sell out Singapore and ASEAN’s interest in favour of China’s interest to see a return of the Khmer Rouge regime. The then assistant secretary of state in charge of China policy attempted to bully and browbeat our foreign ministers, saying that there would ‘blood on the floor’ if we did not relent.
    I was personally present when the US delegation tried to browbeat our then foreign minister, S Dhanabalan, into backing down from our opposition to China’s position. It was clear to me from that meeting that the American delegation was not used to having small states defy their will. Even though the Americans threatened to call Mr Lee, they never did.” [p 20-21: THE BIG IDEAS OF LEE KUAN YEW edited by Shashi Jayakumar and Rahul Sagar: this introduction by Kishore Mahbubani: 2015]

  20. //The Malaysian Chinese, feeling unprotected by UMNO and PAS, should welcome this development in the hope that another May 13th will never happen and China may ensure that.

    Hawking.eye: I will beg to differ. China has sided with 1PM, and will continue to side with the idea that authority is correct. If Bersih is allowed to take place, it might have ramification towards other movements in HKG and Taiwan. China took a very unpopular stand to prop up a kleptocracy which would protect a MO1.

    While some Malaysian Chinese would be proud of the development, many should experience shame. I grew to learn Tun M is not all that wrong on his writings on the Chinese in Dilemma Melayu. I am not proud of a Primier Xi Chinese. It is not much different than having Trump to lead.

  21. I wonder what our Malaysian generals of the army and air force, and our admirals are thinking as MO1 turns a blind eye to Mainland Chinese grabbing of Malaysian territory (islands claimed by Malaysia in the South China Sea), in return for $$$ to bail MO1 out ??

  22. “Unless and until China uses its military power against any Asean country in dispute over the South China Sea, one has to give the benefit of doubt to China….”

    Um, cheque book diplomacy VS gunboat diplomacy ? Which is preferable ?

    Despite what some folks think, Chinese aid comes with no strings attached. Seriously, look it up.

    And that’s the problem.

    Read up on what is happening in Africa. EVERY African country which has received Chinese money , tensions have ratcheted up, citizens have been abused and money which is supposed to go where it is needed has either been used for specific ethnic groups or used against the very citizenry that it was supposed to help.

    This so called “non-interference policy” is exactly that, only with the fig leaf of deniability.

    I have had direct experience with minions from the CPC. Dodgy fellows the bunch of them. Rough trades in nice suits.

    Najib has no idea the can of worms he has opened up. This is made worst by Chinese cheerleaders who will mistakenly eat those worms thinking it is noodles.

    But then again there’s no accounting for taste.

  23. Phua Kai Lit, Chief of Armed Forces, Chief of Army, Chief of Air Force and Chief of Navy won’t say of do anything. They are looking forward to retirement perks and benefits, appointed as Chairmen of Banks or Boustead or LTAT, Affin and some may end up in Defence Contractor companies.

  24. Najis is all Deflection , going all over the show not knowing whether he’s coming or going ……..merely go …go….go…..with the blinkered view to cover up the Big mess surrounding the One Mad Debacle ( MDB ) , leaving’ sh…ts..’ everywhere for beloved Malaysia’s future Generations……to have their fill …….?

    Its called ‘ merangkak ‘ (crawling ) like the Leech in desperation for blood as food for greedy self-survival……greed…..greed …..greed….has overtaken his psyche !

  25. Dennis has every right to state his anxiety as to where our national and regional priorities and interests lie. Does anyone here really think that PRC’s investments here are due to their innate altruism, . . .? ”

    Of course Dennis Ignatius has every right to express his anxiety on the matter, but he would certainly make for a stronger and more convincing argument for himself if he had stayed back here instead of spending time in the U.S. and Canada, actually, from the grapevine, mostly in Canada.

    Neither genes, nor money, nor chauvinism has motivated me to write what I have written, and will continue to write — to tell another version of any story which appear, in my opinion, to have left out some details, sometimes unpleasant and often too self-serving, but even worse to make value-judgements against another party as a matter of course all because of a predisposition to expound the views and values of the hegemons who must have supplicants from any territory, subdued or sovereign, all the better graced by senior public office or academic positions; I stand in between the West and the Rest, well aware that no states could ever claim to have found the path to paradise on Earth. Both sides of the divide have played their role to dehumanise human societies — it has been a long, long story of blood and bullying.

    Transpose your statement on innate altruism, as quoted above, and insert “U.S.’ investments”, or “Singapore’s investments,” or “India’s investments”, or whatever, the value-judgement is obvious. Such a rhetorical statement immediately diminishes your argument. In your eyes China must lose on every count in your scheme of things, but if what I have written earlier causes discomfort to you, I make no apologies simply because the sources have all been written by people from the West.

    Nowhere in my earlier threads have I ever suggested that I support grand theft, even less humongous thievery.

    Lastly, I would like to go back to “. . . Clearly they underestimated the Middle Kingdom and the perfidy of their own successors. . . .”

    I note with special interest that it is “successors” and not “. . . a successor.” With 36 years of service, Dennis Ignatius is well-placed to identify these successors, one by one! Ensconced in salubrious and comfortable surroundings in Canada made possible by a well-deserved pension, Dennis could not find enough reason to retire here despite all his anxieties.

    Me a poor ex-wage earner banging my head every night after reading about Ali Babas here and the Babas in China, and still in love with Pax Malaysiana!

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