China, the next big enemy? (No.)

[Update Note: Danwei had the photos and some great commentary hours before the article cited below. Good work, and sorry I didn’t see it until now! Great comment thread over there, too.]

This story totally blew me away. I’m not saying I swallowed it hook, line and sinker, just that it made my jaw drop as I wondered how much of this is actually true? The writer is famous and hard to pin down politically (adores Ayn Rand, worked for Ralph Nader, etc.), and he’s obviously no dummy. (Strange, but not necessarily stupid.)

The article has to be seen, because the photos are essential. I do want to quote one section, however, that echoes my immediate reaction upon hearing of China’s “harassment” of the US Navy’s Impeccable.

Imagine if Chinese military vessels appeared 75 miles off the coast of, say, southern California, for the quite obvious purpose of tracking our submarine defenses and conducting surveillance of our San Diego naval base. It would be bombs away, pronto, and no questions asked. However, the Chinese penumbra of sovereignty is apparently more restricted.

Beijing claims U.S. actions violate the UN Law of the Sea, a treaty to which they are signatory and the U.S. is not. However, in contesting this assertion – which came up in the aftermath of the last Hainan incident – U.S. officials routinely note that the UN law, while granting China sovereignty over its “exclusive economic zone,” would have been violated only if the Impeccable was on a commercial expedition, and yet the clear concern on the part of the Chinese is that this was a military mission.

We have our Monroe Doctrine, which was specifically aimed at the crowned heads of Europe, who, in our nation’s youth, posed a threat on our very borders. (This same doctrine, ironically, was later tweaked and twisted into a rationale for our own imperial ambitions in South and Central America, as well as Mexico.) Other nations, however, are not entitled to a Monroe Doctrine of their own: China, Russia, and Iran have no corresponding prerogative to their own spheres of influence, as granted by geography, tradition, and the military necessities of a credible defense.

This made me think of an incident n the 90s when Cuba shot down two cuban exile-owned aircraft dropping anti-government leaflets on the streets of Havana. The planes had taken off from Florida. What would happen, I kept asking myself, if Cuba allowed aircraft to take off to fly over downtown Manhattan dropping anti-US-government leaflets on the sidewalk and all over Central Park?

For the past five years, the group’s volunteer pilots have patrolled the Florida Strait seeking refugees fleeing Cuba on makeshift rafts. In the past, the group’s aircraft reportedly have buzzed the Cuban capital, Havana, to drop leaflets attacking President Fidel Castro.

Castro replied with a warning that any aircraft violating the country’s airspace would be shot down. In Seattle, President Clinton “condemned this action in the strongest possible terms.”

The group, Brothers to the Rescue, had been praised in the US as heroes. And yet if the tables were turned the Monroe Doctrine would be put into play in seconds. We would never stand for it.

Okay, back to China. I realize this could be jumping the gun because I can’t fact-check Raimondo’s article. But looking at his track record I have to say I admire his original thinking and refusal to be slotted. His closing words on China make sense, at least until he gets to that one sentence about the Falun Gong:

There is plenty of anti-Chinese political sentiment in this country, and it’s a constituency that is bipartisan. Among the Democrats, you have organized labor, which is instinctively Sinophobic in this country and always has been, as the history of the oppression of Chinese coolies in California amply demonstrates. The protectionist unions are in a lather about the fact that Chinese workers produce cheaper and better products that American consumers want to buy. In tandem with international do-gooders of every sort, the anti-China popular front also consists of Republicans of the sort who will welcome any fresh enemy, as long as it means more subsidies for the military-industrial-congressional complex. Throw in the wacko cultists of Falun Gong, and what you have is the reincarnation of the old, bipartisan anti-Communist alliance of yesteryear, which brought us wars in Korea and Vietnam – and may yet succeed in provoking a third war on the Asian landmass, one just as futile and unwinnable as its predecessors.

The formulation of American foreign policy is all about domestic political pressures. It is the domain of lobbyists and de facto foreign agents, most of them unregistered, who work with targeted American constituencies to further various commercial and foreign interests. A rational foreign policy, i.e., one that serves authentic American interests, is virtually impossible in these circumstances.

Chas Freeman keeps coming to mind as evidence mounts all around us that we want – demand – to remain in a state of denial and delusion about Israel and China and just about everything else. Maybe it makes us feel safe. We want “analysts” who make us feel like were getting into a warm bath, all snug and safe. Ironically, it is precisely this self-delusional state of mind that landed us in the financial crisis that could well wipe out our dreams and our bankbooks.

Again, go see the photos and read the whole thing. And again, read the Wikipedia entry on the author. Too bad he sounds a bit crazy on why we entered WWII, and in his admiration of Charles Lindbergh. If you can put that aside….

The Discussion: 71 Comments


This is ,indeed, an interesting piece. I posted it and commented on it yesterday and unlike yourself, I did not bother with researching the author. Often, it seems that the ‘anti’s’ have a lot of ‘kooky’ ideas and, to me, this was a given in this instance. But, after thinking about this piece for awhile, I am in agreement with most of what he has to say.

Let’s face it, we were spying and got caught. Admit to it, move on. Everyone does it.

“In tandem with international do-gooders of every sort, the anti-China popular front also consists of Republicans of the sort who will welcome any fresh enemy, as long as it means more subsidies for the military-industrial-congressional complex.”

This is the part that really grabs me. Nothing new stated here, but seldom seen and when seen, gets little press. After reading your thoughts, I did a quick search of the American military-industrial complex and its contribution to the economy and destruction to the environment.

[Muscle of the US Economy

The military industry is a dominant player in the US economy. Military orders drive America’s manufacturing sector. More than one-third of all engineers and scientists in the US are engaged in military-related jobs. Several sections of the country and a number of industrial sectors, particularly shipbuilding and aerospace, are greatly dependent upon military spending or foreign arms sales.

The Department of Defense (DoD), together with the top defense corporations – or what is known as the “military-industrial complex” – controls the largest coordinated bloc of industry in the US. ]

I think it is safe to say that without an enemy, the U.S. would not have a vibrant economy, nor would we continue to be the number one military power on earth were it not for the military\industrial establishment (mind you, I’m not defending these outrageous expenditures, the money could be better spent elsewhere)

Mr. Justin Raimondo is onto something here.

Without strife amongst the nations of the world (I wonder how much is due to our meddling and prodding) and an ever present threat of war from an enemy, real or imagined, the military-industrial complex dies. And, ask yourself, ‘who puts the BIG bucks in their pockets? A BIG enemy. China.

War, the sale of weapons, is big, big business. On a scale that is unchallengeable. One MUST have an enemy.

To end this rambling comment, take a look at the amount of pollution generated by this same military-industrial complex and, ironically, almost nothing is ever heard about it. Who would dare run the risk of being branded a ‘traitor?’

Global warming is on the minds of people all over the planet. They are talking about how strange their weather is these days. Severe fluctuations are causing new weather patterns alien to communities worldwide. Obviously, the growth in greenhouse gases is a primary reason for global warming.

Our lifestyle, especially in the U.S. with less than 5% of the world’s population, is a major contributor as we produce 25% of global carbon emissions.

But few ever ask what role the U.S. military plays in contributing to global warming. And as people like Al Gore and other environmentalists look for solutions, rarely is the Pentagon mentioned as a polluter and a place that we can look to for change if life is to survive on our mother Earth.

March 12, 2009 @ 8:15 pm | Comment

I thought this part of the incident was particularly amusing:

“Because the vessels’ intentions were not known, Impeccable sprayed its fire hoses at one of the vessels in order to protect itself,” the statement said. “The Chinese crewmembers disrobed to their underwear and continued closing to within 25 feet.”

Chinese sailors attacking in their underwear.

Oh my, WW3 is near!

(Quoted from CNN Online)

March 12, 2009 @ 9:04 pm | Comment

I like reading Raimondo,he’s very entertaining.

But his claims are nutcase. In fact Chinese surveillance and spying take place every day inside the US. Yet the US does not bomb anyone, nor break off relations. These activities are normal and pursued by all powers against each other. Moreover, Chinese spy vessels invade Japanese waters but we do not hear of similar behavior from Japan – no bombing, no cowboying. China even invented a totally spurious claim to Japanese territory in 1969 with the Senkakus. Again, amazingly, no bombing from either Japan or the Americans who are obligated by treaty to defend them.

This kind of cowboying occurred in the Cold War but both sides were aware of the stakes. Now China is playing a whole different game, behaving like five year olds.

Get some perspective here, Richard. Chinese subs routinely trail US carrier groups, sometimes in Japanese territorial waters. One popped up right in the middle of the Kitty Hawk and her escorts in ’06. That is the kind of thing where stupidity and miscalculation can lead to war. Is Raimondo not aware of that? Serious incidents between US and USSR subs/vessels did not lead the US to bomb Russian vessels (remember when a Russky sub rammed a US carrier in a serious oops!?). Why should it here, and on what evidence does Raimondo accuse the US Navy and the US government of this kind of belligerence toward China? None.

It’s especially asinine because the US Navy is a branch of the US government that has consistently advocated a moderate and controlled positive engagement policy with China. It is China’s friend. Admiral Fallon even had US pacific planners stop wargames and simulations that had China as the enemy when he headed up PacCom. The Navy has to monitor Chinese submarine activity because that is how it (1) hones its skills (2) helps its allies like Japan and (3) perpares for the eventuality of war. That’s the reality of the world we live in.

It’s my dream that someday people who write on this stuff actually research it. I doubt I’ll see that in my lifetime, though.


March 12, 2009 @ 9:16 pm | Comment

I’d like to echo Michael’s sentiments. If you want to be one of the big boys, you have to play by the big boys’ rules. That is until you are a big enough boy to be able to change the rules. Given that the Chinese navy in its current state would have a problem dealing with the Royal Navy, let alone the US Navy they really need to grow up, calm down and get with the programme.

Further to that, the real issue is does the US have the right to be where it was. I would argue yes, clearly it is fine. The central problem (that Raimondo appears ignorant to) is the fact that the Chinese claim pretty much the entirety of the South China Sea. This claim is clearly marked on every map of the world I have seen in China, and I have seen plenty of them in their classrooms.

This claim is lunatic and will never be accepted by the rest of Asia or the US.

March 12, 2009 @ 9:43 pm | Comment


From the same website, an article that I read and bookmarked some time ago, ‘Turning China into the Next Big Enemy’ by Doug Bandow (senior fellow at the Cato Institute). dtd March 7, 2008.

A good read in my opinion. The worldwide economic recession has nullified some of his contentions. Further, international relationships and dependency upon one another have become so intertwined that a war with China is out of the question. I agree that China has to be an American adversary (not to the point of war) if the military-industrial complex is to survive in its present state.

March 12, 2009 @ 9:52 pm | Comment

I don’t think Raimondo ever said the Chinese don’t spy. They do. Everybody does (as Riace already noted). I never once denied it. In fact, I’ve blogged about it before. What I did say I agreed with was the assertion that if China or Cuba had gigantic spy vessels the likes of the Impeccable 75 miles outside of downtown San Diego the US would in no way tolerate it. I also think the photos make the charges of harassment look a bit silly.

Looking at the post over at the Danwei post and the excellent comments, it’s good to see that Raimondo is not a lone wolf telling this story. Those photos are extremely effective. Let’s face it, America looks pretty silly.

March 12, 2009 @ 9:58 pm | Comment

That’s definitely food for thought, Riace We all know what ended the last depression.

Feel free to email me when you put up posts like the one you wrote yesterday on this topic – if they’re good I’ll be happy to link.

March 12, 2009 @ 9:59 pm | Comment

I largely agree with the post: if China threw an intel ship off California or NY, there would be hell to pay. However, the piece has the classic flaws of a “nut job” piece, in that a good argument is completely undercut by overzealousness. As an example, he spends a great deal of the argument talking about the boat sizes, and its a superficially compelling argument, but size really has nothing to do with how dangerous a ship is. Also, the last time a US ship was rushed by a small (much smaller) boat was the USS Cole, so I would expect the sailors to be a bit antsy.

March 12, 2009 @ 10:14 pm | Comment

Thanks for the comment, Longley. I think after a few minutes it was clear to the US crew they did not have another Cole on their hands – if that was a fear of theirs, they certainly never expressed it, which would be quite strange. Why do you think they may have seen it that way? And if they did, wouldn’t they have blown the Chinese boats to bits? I hadn’t heard anything about fears of terrorism from the little boats bearing Chinese flags.

The details on the size and the capabilities of the boats definitely serves a purpose. I’m no expert on nautical warfare and the like, but do you think those Chinese fishing vessels look like the kind of high-speed boats that could make a Cole-like attack?

March 12, 2009 @ 10:32 pm | Comment

“What I did say I agreed with was the assertion that if China or Cuba had gigantic spy vessels the likes of the Impeccable 75 miles outside of downtown San Diego the US would in no way tolerate it.”

Who cares? There’s a good reason for us to be there. And as Micheal points out above they have come much much much closer than 75 miles from our aircraft carriers with their subs, playing dangerous and irresponsible games in international waters during which the US did not react violently. I guarantee there are Chinese subs lurking around our coastline in the near future, if not already…just because that’s what navies do during peacetime, constantly test limits.

I’m glad the US got the first punch on this (they did if you are coming to this story late, it got to US papers about 1 day ahead of Xinhua). I don’t think the US looks silly at all (they aren’t the ones caught with their pants down after all.) Richard, can you imagine the hell that would break loose if the US decided to suddenly pull its naval forces out of the Asia/Pac region according to China’s wishes? Taiwan would be invaded, Japan most likely nuked or invaded to prevent its militarization. N/S Korea would flare up again. I know its off topic, but honestly, I’d like to hear your opinion on this, do you think China could be a responsible watchdog in the Asia/Pac region? That is what they are “gunning” for…

For all the people that complain about US military spending, please realize that since WW2 Europe, Japan, Korea and countless other places have basically allowed/asked/become complacent with the US taking over the responsibility of their defenses…there’s a reason we have to spend so much, it’s because we pay for the defense of so many other nations. Now, maybe its better to just pull out, and let our allies take care of their own defenses, but personally with all the lingering animosity (esp. in East Asia) I would rather have one big military power with an interest in maintaining the semblance of “peace” (even though its a hypocritical military power) than a bunch of small military powers dukin’ it out over gods know what…

March 12, 2009 @ 10:44 pm | Comment

Andy, I’ve seen what my country does with unlimited and unregulated power (look at the world’s economy today, not to mention the “war on terror”), and I don’t love what I see. I’m glad you feel safe with America being king of the world, I just have trouble with our hubris and the way they framed this. I don’t want China to be king of the world either – that’s a scary thought. But we should know a mission like this 75 miles off the coast of Hainan is high-risk and potentially inflammatory.

March 12, 2009 @ 10:48 pm | Comment

Aargh. If there were an intel ship off the US coast, there might be hell to pay, but there wouldn’t be bombs away. And we probably wouldn’t risk a collision or war by coming so close.

Also, bear in mind that the reason that one doesn’t hear about them off the US coast is that Chinese electronic information gathering activities are carried out in Japanese waters and aimed at Japan and Taiwan. When they want to start looking at us, and have the capabilities, they will be there.

Of course, when China does it to Japan it’s ok, because….why? I can’t remember the reason we’re up in arms about totally legitimate US surveillance of Chinese subs from a position in international waters but silent on Chinese incursions into the sovereign waters of Japan — we’re not obligated to go to war if China and the US have a screw up in international waters, but we are bound by treaty to defend Japan if China and Japan find themselves in a war as the result of some stupid incident.

The US said that a Chinese vessel told the US ship to cease its activities or “suffer the consequences.” But the US is the belligerent side here, clearly.

I’m curious what outcome you guys think should occur here? Should we pay reparations to China? Do we cease tracking their military units? Or what?

Michael Turton

March 12, 2009 @ 10:53 pm | Comment

But we should know a mission like this 75 miles off the coast of Hainan is high-risk and potentially inflammatory.

Yes Richard — and so should the Chinese. That is why they should not be clearly and stupidly violating the rules of the game.

The issue here is that while you hold the US to that knowing, you do not hold the Chinese to it. The double standard here is very clear. And the US is not the cowboy power in this situation.


March 12, 2009 @ 10:56 pm | Comment

Also, I note that you cast the Chinese as ‘defending’ while, as they play games with the US ship, they too are probing and surveilling to see what sort of rich intel it gives off in the form of signals to other US units, types of evasive moves, situation protocols, detection and response capabilities, and so on. The Chinese are not engaged in indignant naive passionate defense of the homeland. They are engaged in intimidation of ships of a foreign navy in international waters to score political points and gather intelligence about it.

Once again, we see “being provoked” as a policy.


March 12, 2009 @ 11:04 pm | Comment

Here is a version of the map I was referring to earlier courtesy of the bbc

I don’t see how the US is being silly. They are within their rights, as clearly shown by the map. So the Chinese don’t like it – too bad. The UK doesn’t like it much when the Russians mess about just outside of our airspace and waters, but we don’t start buggering about like the Chinese. I am not surprised if one of their crew died in 2001 if this behaviour is replicated in the skies. Stripping down to their pants is simply ridiculous.

When are they going to display the patience, dignity and subtlety they always bang on about having?

March 12, 2009 @ 11:12 pm | Comment

…not that claiming most of the South China sea as your sovereign territory isn’t hubris…

Anyway, if you don’t want America to be “King of the World” that’s fine, (we would certainly save a lot of money), I just don’t think perceived “hypocrisy” or “hubris” are good enough reasons to let the world devolve into what it would be without the “US military complex” i.e. a bunch of small warring military complexes.

I guess I don’t look at it as our “right” to be the world’s watchdog, but an unfortunate burden that history has left us with. I don’t like it, I don’t necessarily agree with it, but to simply walk away from it, to me, would be the greater evil.

March 12, 2009 @ 11:16 pm | Comment

Also, I note that you cast the Chinese as ‘defending’

Who are you talking to, and who used the word “defending” (aside from you)? You have it in quote marks, but I can’t see where anyone in this thread said it.

Of course, when China does it to Japan it’s ok, because….why?

Likewise, no one here said a word about Japan – only you did. So I am at a loss as to whom you’re talking to.

We shouldn’t have been there, and the Chinese, if they were too close to Japan, shouldn’t have been there. We all know we go places we shouldn’t and they do, too, and these adventures can be very dangerous. I’m not saying the Chinese are heroes and the US was bad. I never said either were cowboys. I’m saying the US charges of harassment seem overblown, and the Chinese are doing far less than what we would be doing in a reverse situation. And I’m saying the US has a lot of hubris complaining about harassment when they’re spying 75 miles from China’s submarine fleet. It’s not that complicated.

I am not sure I’m ready to go all the way and say I agree with Raimondo about a campaign to make China “the next big enemy,” but it’s not totally far-fetched, looking at Lou Dobbs and the Washington Times and some of the comments here and at Danwei.

March 12, 2009 @ 11:22 pm | Comment


“We shouldn’t have been there” – don’t agree but don’t want to repeat myself and sound like a broken record.

“I am not sure I’m ready to go all the way and say I agree with Raimondo about a campaign to make China “the next big enemy,” but it’s not totally far-fetched”

actually, i agree. i am sure the average joe/politico in the us isn’t necessarily interested in making china the next enemy, but i am sure there are war planners in the pentagon who are. my point would be that the us had every right to be there, but am sure those who are bears on china will make hay with incidents like this to further their agenda.

March 12, 2009 @ 11:38 pm | Comment

Si, I guess one of my questions is why we (the US) have the right to claim total control over our surrounding waterways and other nations don’t. I admit, I have a thing about fairness and allowing one country to have the world as its sandbox. I also realize that’s ultimately a simplistic argument, and that there’s much more to this than fairness, which sometimes I think is a child’s word anyway. I know the aggressive and taunting nature of China’s own navy. So I admit, I may be approaching this too simplistically and want to understand it better. I also know that those photos have a very powerful emotional effect, juxtaposing a David vs. Goliath, when again, there’s more to the story than the fact that our boat looked scary while theirs in comparison looked like toys,

March 12, 2009 @ 11:50 pm | Comment

There are proper ways to “escort” spying planes and ships out of your territories without violating international laws.

Russian and USSR bombers come around to US territories quite often. They were not shot down. US fighters don’t fly up and cross their paths. They just flew along side the Russians just to tell them they are there. If it is outside of the US airspace (3 miles from coast), the Russians would just stay on course, with couple of US fighters “escorting”. No dangerous movements. The Russians weren’t even painted by weapon targeting radars.

Similarly for spy ships and submarines of foreign navies. No crossing of the bow, unless they get into US waters. They are usually warned. US navy shows its presence. No international laws are violated.

Putting a small boat in the path of a ship violates international law, whether it is in international waters of territorial waters of any nation. Mooning is allowed.

And who recognize the Chinese EEZ. Why can’t US declare the Yangtze River as its EEZ ? The location of this incident is closer to Vietnam than China. Should Vietnam has a better claim ? Please notice the Chinese claimed EEZ is so close to Philippines, it almost include the Philippines. May be China should just claim the San Francisco Bay as its EEZ.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:06 am | Comment

There is a difference of “in control” and “have the right to sail”. All countries have the right to sail safely and peacefully in international waters. Harassing by putting a boat across the path of a ship is not sailing peacefully. It’s like you can walk on the street but you should not block anyone from walking on the street.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:09 am | Comment

WWAD? (What would America do?)

I’m not sure America would be so gung ho as to sink a vessel suspected of spying on it. It might board it or drive it away, but unless there was an immediate security threat I doubt lethal force would be used.

One question I haven’t had an answer to is whether Impeccable was in the undisputed part of China’s EEZ or not. As Si points out, China often claims the entire South China Sea as its own. So China will claim that the US ship was in its waters regardless of where the rest of the world may think it lay.

I’m also not entirely sure whether Impeccable was “spying” or not. It may have had equipment allowing it to track vessels operating out of Hainan. Then again it may have just been surveying the sea-bed, which although would make it easier for US submarines to operate there and thus potentially make life harder for the PLAN is hardly illegal. Unless there is an official statement I guess people will make their own assumptions.

Looking at Raimondo’s article, he raises a valid overall point about how countries can be made out to be bogeymen. It’s a handy way to focus national opinion away from local troubles. There are definitely people in the US who exaggerate the threat China poses, whether they realise it or not. But that’s hardly surprising – you can see that in just about every country towards some nation.

What he fails on are a lot of the specifics. Pro-Taiwan lobbyists do exist, but Raimondo is guilty of exaggeration himself in how successful they are. Think about how successful pro-China lobbyists are. The US agrees to China dictating that it cannot have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The US doesn’t agree with Taiwan having any sort of UN membership, or WHO membership – I believe that “observer” status isn’t permanent and would have to be re-approved every year. The US explicitly tells Taiwan not to declare independence (it is hesitant to even change its constitution to say it doesn’t own Mongolia). Senior US officials can’t correspond directly with their Taiwanese counterparts, meaning it’s hard to build up trust and communicate efficiently. There are even restrictions on using headed notepaper – Michael T can explain what it is.

So, really, how successful is the “Taiwan lobby”? Raimondo refers to..

“legislation that requires the U.S. to provide for Taiwan’s security needs, including going to war in case its disputed sovereignty is violated”

The Taiwan Relations Act does require the US to provide Taiwan with weapons, but clearly it is the White House that decides what and if anything will be sold. Raimondo raises the arms sales given congressional notification last year. Those were weapons initially approved early in Bush’s first term, yet he had the notifications made on perhaps the last date possible. That rather suggests that he was sucking up to China until the last moment. At one point commentators thought the arms sale wouldn’t go ahead at all, despite the TRA. Clearly Bush made the decision as to when/if arms sales moved forward – US legislation doesn’t seem to have been a deciding factor.

The notifications also didn’t include Black Hawk helicopters, submarines or new F-16s, the latter being something most security/military analysts say Taiwan needs to maintain any sort of parity with the PLAAF. The Taiwanese legislative speaker said that he now believes those F-16s will never be sold. That would be a victory for pro-China lobbyists, not their pro-Taiwan counterparts.

Indeed the article ignores the actual content of the arms sale. The dollar value seems high, but it doesn’t do a lot other than try to stop Taiwan fall too far behind China militarily. The US still refuses to sell Taiwan offensive weapons like AGM-88 HARM missiles and JADM kits. It has even reportedly stopped Taiwan from sourcing components used in its HF-IIE cruise missiles from America. Is Raimondo suggesting Taiwan should not be sold any weapons at all, even ones that are defensive in nature? The only really “offensive” thing that was included in the arms package were Boeing UGM-84 Harpoon missiles (submarine-launched). But Taiwan can only fit them to two submarines and China has more submarines that can fire the Russian equivalent.

The TRA does not require the US to intervene if China attacks Taiwan, though some peoples suggest it could be interpreted that way. It would still be up to the President to decide what to do – who can make him/her act differently?

He is right to say that lobby pressure has an influence on US foreign policy, though I will not guess to what specific degree. But as I mentioned earlier US administrations are lobbied by people on behalf of China as well as Taiwan. All in all I would say that US foreign policy has gone much more China’s way than Taiwan’s, at least since 2000. Putting aside the issue of whether Raimondo is right or wrong on Sinophobia generally, he’s rather ignorant of the real state of US-Taiwan affairs.

P.S. Apologies for the long comment.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:35 am | Comment

The way I see this is that this was a Chinese provocation to gather information on the resolve and attitudes of the Obama administration. The hope I have here is that the Obama administration will seem neither too aggressive nor too meek, and that the Chinese will get the message that the Obama administration is neither a threat nor a gimp.

By the way, Russian spy ships run around in the Hawaiian EEZ all the time. The US doesn’t do anything about that either.

March 13, 2009 @ 1:00 am | Comment

As Si points out, China often claims the entire South China Sea as its own. So China will claim that the US ship was in its waters regardless of where the rest of the world may think it lay.

China may make that claim, but they don’t actively enforce it, doing this sort of thing every time a boat goes into the South China Sea. This was too close to home.

That’s really getting granular re. the TRA. That is a relatively tiny part of the article – of course Raimondo doesn’t go into it in detail. I see most of your issues with him as matters of interpretation and/or degree, not actual disputes over what happened. I wouldn’t label him “rather ignorant” based on this single short graf:

For decades, the Taiwan lobby has bought and manipulated U.S. politicians and succeeded in passing legislation that requires the U.S. to provide for Taiwan’s security needs, including going to war in case its disputed sovereignty is violated. A huge arms sale under the Bush administration was orchestrated as a result of this unique legislation, which is a monument to the power of foreign lobbyists in the Imperial City.

You yourself say there are different schools of thought on whether the US would go to war for Taiwan. And I know there are different schools of thought on the arms sale and its significance. So while maybe you might say you subscribe to a different school of thought, I don’t see grounds in this paragraph to label him as “ignorant.”

March 13, 2009 @ 1:05 am | Comment

@Si, Regarding your the map by BBC

In the same BBC article, it reports “The Pentagon says five Chinese ships harassed an unarmed US navy surveillance vessel in a dangerous manner while it was on routine operations in international waters 75 miles (120km) south of Hainan island.”

I double it is a simple mistake that BBC puts the incident locaton out of 200 nautical mile line. Are they really that bad at measurements?

March 13, 2009 @ 1:18 am | Comment

China may make that claim, but they don’t actively enforce it, doing this sort of thing every time a boat goes into the South China Sea.

Well that depends on how easily it could enforce its claims, either in terms of resources or the response action might provoke.

I recognise that my quesiton over whether the ship was in the undisputed part of China’s EEZ is a difficult one to answer, but it it is quite important. If anyone sees something on that I’d like to know.

I don’t see grounds in this paragraph to label him as “ignorant.”

No, I wouldn’t say he’s generally ignorant based on that – perhaps I could have made it clearer that I was just talking about US-Taiwan relations. I may have been harsh, but if he is well informed on that particular matter he should have been more specific as to his views.

There are different views on the TRA and arms sales. However, I think it is fair to say that the former cannot force the US president to sell systems to Taiwan or intervene on its side. I could be wrong, but to my knowledge the relevant part is an indication of policy (which the president gets to decide), not an obligation.

As for the arms sales, I haven’t read any credible statements from military commentators that they’ll “unbalance” the situation between China and Taiwan. As I said, if you break it down although it’s things Taiwan needs, it’s all quite reasonable given the state of China’s military.

Anyway, that’s just my view on a small part of the article. No need to discuss this further, I’m sure.

March 13, 2009 @ 1:51 am | Comment

One thing that everyone has failed to realize here is that while the USS Impeccable is a US Naval ship, it is operated by a civilian crew; NOT MILITARY! That means the ship was unarmed.

March 13, 2009 @ 2:09 am | Comment

Military and civilian crew were present, gsw.

March 13, 2009 @ 2:13 am | Comment

yourfriend, you’re right that there were some military personnel onboard. But I think gsw is right when he says it was unarmed.

March 13, 2009 @ 2:30 am | Comment

If size is the only thing that matters, than the Somali pirates would not have kidnapped so many big (unarmed) ships.

March 13, 2009 @ 2:42 am | Comment

it was an unarmed vessel deployed for the sake of spying on China’s subs, but they were received by a bunch of shirtless, pantsless fishermen armed with planks.

March 13, 2009 @ 2:44 am | Comment

There is really no right or wrong here. The only thing that matters is strength, military strength and overall national strength. Once China’s overall GDP is as big as US’s and the Chinese navy is as strong as the US navy, China will send intelligence ships to the California coast and the US will complaint but will not be able to do anything about it.

Great powers are not bound by by territorial waters. They have backyards. The South China Sea, whether you like it or not, is China’s yard. And that domain will continue to expand as China rises. Very soon it will include the Taiwan Straight, the Sea of Japan, and eventually the entire Western Pacific.

This is just a prelude.

March 13, 2009 @ 3:16 am | Comment

On this Naval incident:

China “claims” the 200 nautical miles of Special Economic Sea Area not arbitrarily. It is in complete accordance with the UN Law of the Seas, in which China is a signatory (along with most other countries in the world). THe UN Law of the Seas gives each country the right to declare 200 Nautical Miles of Special Economic Sea Area (not more). According to the UN Law, foreign vessels can still pass in that area, but must coordinate with the host government. US gov’t is also a signatory of that law, but the US congress never approved it.

Why Congress never approve it? Because it makes it harder for the US to snoop and peak closer to other nations’ coasts.

Does it now also make it harder for other nations to snoop and peak? Yes, but the US, given its advanced navy, has more incentive to snoop and peak than other nations.

So the internal logic, or the core of this issue, is the unique logic of the US: We are more justified in snooping and peaking as close to your border as possible, so you better suck it up and let us do it.

You can call the US a gangster, a mafia, an aggressive country, a invasive country, a unreasonable country. But currently it have the biggest navy, strongest military, most powerful strength, and in this world, power = legitimacy and law.

This USS “Impeccable” is not a civilian ship. It is operated directly by the US Navy, and it is one of the chief intelligence gathering ships of the Navy. It has a very long undersea rope to detect sonar signatures of submarines, and only a naive person would think it is for harmless civilian or commercial purposes.

Two Chinese fishing boats 1/10 the size of the US ship, with zero military offense or defense capability, and that is a “danger” and “threat” to the professional US military ship. Again, the unique logic of the US military.

The other important point that everyone misses is this, this kind of operation by the US happens several times a day up and down China’s coast, and this type of “confrontation” also actually happens quite frequently. Most times, neither the US nor China mention it in public. But this time, the US military decides to escalate this issue in the media. Why? One reason is the US military being not happy with Obama, with his decision to cut military budget, to be closer to China, etc. So the hawks inside the US military is using this issue to send a warning or pressure the Obama White House.

March 13, 2009 @ 5:09 am | Comment


“Russian and USSR bombers come around to US territories quite often.”

Yes, and the Russians also shoot down commercial airliners when they violate their air space. Korean Airlines KAL 007.

March 13, 2009 @ 6:59 am | Comment

It seems that no one thinks that China has a ‘real’ navy. 75 miles from Hainan and China’s newest nuclear submarine base and China can’t answer militarily? Does anyone think that a couple of fishing boats just ‘stumbled’ upon the Impeccable? In my opinion, this was a very smart and calculated move on the part of the Chinese.

C’mon, guys. The Chinese military was aware of the American ship. Which is the more effective tactic; sending an armed vessel to confront the Americans and risk a shooting incident or have noncombatants, innocents impede their progress? More good PR for the CCP.

March 13, 2009 @ 7:07 am | Comment


“One thing that everyone has failed to realize here is that while the USS Impeccable is a US Naval ship, it is operated by a civilian crew; NOT MILITARY! That means the ship was unarmed.”

The last I saw stated a fifty fifty crew. Half military and half civilian. Regardless, ALL receive a paycheck from the U.S. government. No civilians on board, in my opinion.

March 13, 2009 @ 7:16 am | Comment

I guess it’s a moot point now as to whether or not the ship was unarmed because now it has an armed
escort for protection:

The Navy has assigned a heavily armed destroyer to escort the U.S. surveillance ship that got into a high-seas confrontation with Chinese ships last weekend.

A smart move in this game of Chess, in my opinion.

March 13, 2009 @ 7:51 am | Comment

MichaelTurton is really a figure. Fun to watch him ranting.

March 13, 2009 @ 8:02 am | Comment

My understanding is the Straights of Taiwan and the South China Sea are major shipping lanes and used by many ships of many nations for commerce to and form china to the many other nations in the area. One of the missions of the US Navy is to ensure lines of communication in other words shipping lanes for US and allies commercial vessels are open and not blockaded. Most commercial shipping off the coast of Florida and California is destined for Mexico, the US or Canada. Not sure if China has any allies near commercial shipping lanes off of either coast. It seems doubtful. So China’s need to patrol california or florida with warships has less justification than the US presence in the straights of taiwan.

The US is allied with Taiwan and is committed to a peaceful unification, but the PRC is building ships, submarines, amphibious landing craft and missile batteries to prepare for an amphibious invasion of taiwan. this is not to say the will do this, but they are building a capability to. so the US has a need to monitor chinese submarine activity in the straights as it affects taiwan and shipping in the region.

During the cold war the soviet union and the US also played cat and mouse games. Some sailors have told me the soviets would often steam straight towards US warships and vear off at the last minute. They did this to study US tactics in response and gather information about US warship capabilities.

It is not a coincidence that the chinese chose to harass this ship so close to the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising. This is another incident to get the young chinese to yell Jia You Jia You while tibetans are rounded up for torture, execution, and harsh prison sentences in celebration of the multicultural han empire’s 50 years of success in exploiting tibet.

March 13, 2009 @ 8:37 am | Comment

The US is allied with Taiwan and is committed to a peaceful unification,

How is the US committed to this goal of unification?

t is not a coincidence that the chinese chose to harass this ship so close to the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising. This is another incident to get the young chinese to yell Jia You Jia You while tibetans are rounded up for torture, execution, and harsh prison sentences in celebration of the multicultural han empire’s 50 years of success in exploiting tibet.

Are Tibetans being “rounded up for torture and execution”? That’s a serious question. I will put up a blog post on this immediately if you show me the source. I believe you, but I haven’t heard about it from a reliable source yet. I’d heard about the usual arrests that happen before any landmark event in China (anniversaries, People’s Congress, Olympics, etc.) but not about people being rounded up and executed.

March 13, 2009 @ 8:44 am | Comment

Riace, I have to agree with you. The photos of those rowboats juxtaposed with the US juggernauts were absolutely brilliant from a PR standpoint. They may be misleading; as someone said above (and as I said as well), size isn’t the only factor – it is quite possible for a small boat to harass a bigger one. But oh, those photos are miraculous. Forget all the intellectualizing and discussions of whose waters belong to whom or China’s track record of spying and harassing. Those photos wipe such arguments out on the emotional level and give China the upper hand. Even the way they were taken seems to work toward this end, with the upward angle of the Impeccable by itself, looking like a floating fortress, while the Chinese boats look flimsy and harmless. Brilliant.

March 13, 2009 @ 8:49 am | Comment

It is not a conicidence that the Chinese chose a US ship they knew to be unarmed as their target.

It is highly likely that the Impeccable’s routine surveillance in the area is known to the chinese military and that they would know when it would be passing through and where.

it is also not a coincidence that the chinese chose chinese ships that are clearly not warships for the publicity stunt.

this was to ensure there would be no danger of an actual armed conflict.

this was a photo op.

March 13, 2009 @ 8:52 am | Comment

i’ll leave it to you to study the history of the relatonship between PRC, US and taiwan. i am sure you can find official government statements to commitment to the one china two systems and maintaining peace across the sraights.

perhaps the term “peaceful reunification” is in the cobwebs because i was thinking about north and south korea in a different lobe.

i will leave it to the PRC and the citizens there of to prove to me that torture, execution, and harsh prison sentences for tibetans is not happening.

torture, execution, and harsh prison sentences do happen in the PRC it seems doubtful that they would not use these methods on their brother tibetans that they so fond of.

March 13, 2009 @ 9:07 am | Comment

torture, execution, and harsh prison sentences do happen in the PRC it seems doubtful that they would not use these methods on their brother tibetans that they so fond of.

That’s like saying the US tortured people at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo so they must be doing it in San Diego as well. I mean, it may well be true, but to state it categorically as though it’s common knowledge (“tibetans are rounded up for torture, execution, and harsh prison sentences”) with no evidence can weaken your arguments.

I know on paper the US is for unification – and that is something that delights the PRC. But I thought in reality we were committed to the status quo, i.e., supporting Taiwan’s right to exist (but in a state of semi-limbo) while officially recognizing the PRC. I have seen this commitment supported by the US time and again, but I have never – literally never – seen any active efforts by the US to encourage them to unify.

March 13, 2009 @ 9:21 am | Comment

This is only a game.

A game by US navy to extract money from American taxpayers.

A game by US navy to remind the new President of the “China Threat” so Obama will be doubly cautious if he tries to cut the defense spending.

Only China can give them the justification of ever newer military toys.

Spy plane was used at the beginning of the Bush administration and proved to be quite dangerous. So this time around they used unsinkable spy ship called “impeccable”. They intended to create an incident just big enough to arouse the perception of “China threat ” for the Congress and the new president to see.

Obama said he endorsed the goals of the bipartisan effort on defense procurement reform led by McCain and Democratic Senator Carl Levin. Obama noted that a study last year by the Government Accountability Office of 95 major defense acquisitions projects found cost overruns of 26 percent, totaling $295 billion over the life of the projects.

Obama said that William Lynn III, the former Raytheon lobbyist who is now deputy defense secretary, will help lead the procurement reform in the Pentagon.

March 13, 2009 @ 9:50 am | Comment

a former marine fighter pilot once told me that the fighter jocks like to play a game they call “thumping”. if another fighter pilot in your air wing is flying along and not paying attention then you would fly real close from behind and let the turbulence caused by your aircraft shake your buddies plane to wake him up.

my understanding is that the chinese fighter pilot was attempting to play this “thumping” game with the P-3 flying past hainan. i am sure the P-3 regularly flew by Hainan and that the chinese military new all about it.

but this one chinese pilot flew his mig too close and also did not realize that thumping a large lumbering aircraft like a P-3 is more dangerous than thumping another fighter plane. the P-3 is much heavier and cumbersome to fly and less manueverable. so the chinese pilot “thumped” the P-3, the P-3 lost control and the mig and the P-3 collided resulting in a crashed mig and chinese causalty and the P-3 being forced to land at the closest airport which turned out to be a chinese airbase at Hainan. and the rest they say is history or as paul harvey would say “that’s the rest of the story, good day”

March 13, 2009 @ 10:14 am | Comment

Ferin, I see you’re back; you slipped in under my radar screen, using a different IP address. Let me request in advance that you refrain from any personal attacks, ok?

March 13, 2009 @ 10:15 am | Comment

I am really curious about “the dog that did not bark”. The USNS Impeccable which according to janes and wikipedia is a ship that uses sonar to track submarines. So they were scanning for submarines in the Taiwan Straights. So were there submarines around? US, Chinese or other? What were they doing at this time? Did they bark? Also no Chinese fighter jocks appear to have been around either. At least none reported.

So the submarines were no where to be seen, just an odd collection of trawlers and other chinese vessels. thankfully someone

had a camera. isn’t that special.

i wonder if they were distracting the US ship so some submarines could sneak past? anyone know where the PRC submarine bases are?

March 13, 2009 @ 10:25 am | Comment

This has nothing to do with intelligence gathering. It’s all about $, the interest of military-industrial complex.

Anyone who fails to see it this way is a fool.

March 13, 2009 @ 10:35 am | Comment

i wonder if they were distracting the US ship so some submarines could sneak past? anyone know where the PRC submarine bases are?

Again Lindel, that’s a pretty wild speculation. I mean, we can come up with all sorts of possible scenarios, but why on earth would they distract US ships so a submarine could pass? The submarines pass through the S. C. Sea every day, there’s no need to distract the US ship. They aren’t doing anything illegal. Again, I can come up with all sorts of possible reasons why they harassed the Impeccable – maybe they were bored because they hadn’t had sex in a month, or maybe they were making a reality TV show… But if I don’t have anything to back up my hypothesis, it won’t carry much weight.

March 13, 2009 @ 10:39 am | Comment

Richard, I can only imagine what your response must have been during all those years when Soviet Tu-95 NUCLEAR BOMBERS made *regular runs* down the US east coast. You must have been in hysterics! 🙂

In recent years Tu-95 nuclear bombers have returned, occasionally approaching US airspace or carriers. The most recent was just two months ago near Alaska. They sometimes get much closer than the unarmed Impeccable came to China.

March 13, 2009 @ 11:44 am | Comment

Yeah Slim, but Alaska isn’t really America 🙂

I’ll be in Shanghai next week – please tell me you’ll be around.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:06 pm | Comment

“The photos of those rowboats juxtaposed with the US juggernauts were absolutely brilliant from a PR standpoint. They may be misleading; as someone said above (and as I said as well), size isn’t the only factor – it is quite possible for a small boat to harass a bigger one.”

“May be” misleading – ??

“Quite possible” for a small boat to “harass” a larger one?

Richard, have you forgotten that in 2002 the US destroyer Cole was very nearly sunk … by a small motorboat?

There is not much link between size and threat, especially when the vessels are less than 100 yards apart. Missiles, mines and torpedos can be deployed by very small craft, not to mention the danger of collision.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:11 pm | Comment

Richard, Alaska is not on the East coast. 😉

March 13, 2009 @ 12:13 pm | Comment

The tail of the cat is coming out of the bag (not completely out yet, since people do not realize what’s going on, yet)…

China reaffirms Philippines’ territorial claim to Huangyan and Nansha islands “illegal”

As somebody correctly pointed out, all this could be just another stunt to deflect the attention from domestic problems and the crisis. They desperately need a crisis now, one that will rally people together. However…

I don’t have time to write a long comment (unfortunately, because I have a lot to say about this subject), but I’d like to take the occasion to re-introduce Ariel Cohen to the readers.

For a good overview about what is about to unfold in the coming months and year, I invite you to read the following articles and reports.

One of his paper (white paper?):

War Games: Russia, China Grow Alliance

Some more information (don’t worry, they are just “studies” and should be dismissed automatically because of that)

Major Scott P. Nolan

Economic Warfare: A Study of U.S. and China Strategy Using the Economic Element of National Power

“One element of national power that is of critical importance because of the recent explosion in technology and globalization is the economic arm.”

“Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States stands alone today as the only global superpower remaining. Many political scientists have speculated that our nation will enjoy this status for many years to come with only China as a possible near peer competitor in the next 25 years. Today, China is rising—peacefully so far. Its focus remains on economic development and winning acceptance as a great power.”

“Whether our nation has a large or small military, our leadership does understand economics, but not necessarily in the same manner the Chinese do as a weapon of warfare. Economics is a great tool to create conditions for further action or to coerce a nation to change its behavior. As the world further embraces globalization, economics as an element of power will only gain greater influence in the United States and around the world.”

“America has at its disposal the elements of national power (diplomatic, information, military, and economic) to support the U.S. National Security Strategy. The use of these elements of national power protects and allows the United States to remain the lone superpower in the world today.”

“The National Security Strategy states that economic freedom is a moral imperative…that also reinforces political freedom. It creates diversified centers of power and authority that ultimately limit the reach of government. It expands the free flow of ideas; with increased trade and foreign investment comes exposure to new ways of thinking and living which give citizens more control over their own lives.”37 In short, the NSS articulates our economy as central to the spread of democracy, also a theme throughout the NSS.”

I wrote about all these subjects many months ago, at the very beginning of the economic crisis, but since then, it’s starting to be in the news headlines and it will become mainstream. Hopefully people will start paying attention to it now.

I can just imagine the reaction of the readers if I’ve would have posted a comment entitled “China, the next big enemy?” many months ago… Fortunately, I did not.

And for those with a short memory, please keep in my that the agenda has been set 16 years ago.

“A 46-page document that has been circulating at the highest levels of the Pentagon for weeks, and which Defense Secretary Dick Cheney expects to release later this month, states that part of the American mission will be “convincing potential competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role or pursue a more aggressive posture to protect their legitimate interests.”

And sorry, but no, nothing will change under Obama on this matter.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:14 pm | Comment

Richard, I just wrote a very long comment (too long I guess, but still shorter than Math’s prose). Could you please unblock it from the Spam filter and delete this one.


March 13, 2009 @ 12:20 pm | Comment

“Yeah Slim, but Alaska isn’t really America”

Ha! I forgot about those super-patriot secessionists! Now it will be up to their “militia” to deal with those pesky Russian bombers.

“I’ll be in Shanghai next week – please tell me you’ll be around.”

Terrific! Haven’t seen you in ages! Will you be arriving by Chinese submarine? 🙂

March 13, 2009 @ 12:25 pm | Comment

because that is what countries with nuclear ballistic missile submarines and attack submarines do. my understanding from jane’s

is that the PRC has SSBN’s and that they have a large nuclear submarine base at hainan

and they have those Type 093 (Shang Class) Nuclear-Powered Attack Submarines

and the US has a ship with a sonar that looks for submarines. the chinese have submarines that hide from ships with sonars in order to do things for the chinese government that the chinese government wants to remain a secret. the us sailors are naturally curious and want to know what the secret is.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:33 pm | Comment

Lindel, we all know they have a submarine base in Hainan and that they have nuclear submarines. I think my issue with your comments is that you’re making suppositions that could be true or false, but with no supporting evidence, like the statement China is rounding up and torturing Tibetans. I respect your comments here but be prepared for me to challenge them if I don’t see anything to support them.

March 13, 2009 @ 12:49 pm | Comment

Certainly they don’t get very far into Alaskan airspace with Gov. Palin watching?

March 13, 2009 @ 12:57 pm | Comment

That’s what I was thinking. I feel so safe knowing she’s there watching as Putin looms his head.

March 13, 2009 @ 1:02 pm | Comment

About Taiwan, I think people worry too much about the details of the armament’s race and forget one essential point: China will never attack Taiwain.

Why ?

Simply because doing so would probably trigger the beginning of World War III. Take 2 seconds and picture this hypothetical day: China invades Taiwan. A developed state and a symbol of democracy right next to a ideological sea of authoritarianism. Sounds familiar? Because it is. Georgia is playing the same exact role as Taiwan, but this time it’s in the Russia-US game.

Now take a couple of seconds to imagine how the vast majority of the world would react. How do you think the world would welcome an aggressive and expansionist China?

I think the answer is pretty obvious.

March 13, 2009 @ 1:04 pm | Comment

Despite all the words that have been written and all the claims that have been made about how one side is right and another side is wrong, the only thing that matters in the end is strength: military, strategic, economic. China falls pitifully short in the fist two categories. The third category is up for question everywhere at the present time. The US navy can and will go where it pleases when it pleases. If the Chinese ever get their act together and actually have a modern navy they may be taken seriously. Until then, the Chinese military, like the Chinese “government” is just a bad joke.

March 13, 2009 @ 1:48 pm | Comment

But we should know a mission like this 75 miles off the coast of Hainan is high-risk and potentially inflammatory.

Yes Richard — and so should the Chinese. That is why they should not be clearly and stupidly violating the rules of the game.


When you want to test the rules you violate them. The US does this regularly and, apparently, that’s OK, yet it’s stupid for the Chinese to do it?!!!!?

You had better tell Beijing, I’m sure they’ll be receptive.

March 13, 2009 @ 2:19 pm | Comment

[…] the recent boating scuffle between China and the US, who was really intimidating who? (h/t to The Peking Duck, also check out coverage on Danwei) -China worries too few foreigners learning Chinese (Reuters) -A […]

March 13, 2009 @ 3:14 pm | Pingback

Next time they will get a military escort

That’ll make it interesting…..

March 13, 2009 @ 5:51 pm | Comment

Simply because doing so would probably trigger the beginning of World War III. Take 2 seconds and picture this hypothetical day: China invades Taiwan.

I don’t believe it. The reason why China doesn’t invaded Taiwan, or have designs on South Korea and Japan, is because all of these nations are worthless without their people.

If they invaded Taiwan it would just cut off a huge source of FDI, technical assistance and trade and they’d be left a depopulated island and possibly a severely damaged coast of their own.

It’d simply be stupid on every level.

March 13, 2009 @ 10:02 pm | Comment

The relationship between the PRC, Taiwan, and the US is not new. The stalemate or however you wish to characterize the relationship across the straights has been pretty much ongoing for 60 years now. US Navy ships have been operating in the area for a rather long time. You could think of the Straights as being a kind of no man’s land between the two sides. Patrolling the straights to gather information about the military capabilities and intentions of the other has been happening quite often over those 60 years.

I recommend people read ”Good-bye to All That“ the autobiography of Robert Graves. The author talks about among other things his experiences as a soldier in the trenches of WWI. It was interesting to read about the protocol that developed between the Germans on one side of the No Mans Land and the Allies on the other. It was understood that both sides would send patrols into the no mans land for reconnaisance. they did this at semi regular times to ensure that two opposing patrols did not encounter each other and start fighting and also to make sure that the other side did not confuse the patrol for an attack and start shooting. It was understood that some potshots over the heads or near the patrol might happen, but it was also understood that if the patrol sustained casualties that they would have to retaliate with an attack to pay back the transgression.

The US Impeccable was on a patrol in the straights, most likely traveling a path well known to the chinese because it was not the first time in 60 years for a US ship to pass through the straights. The US would not want the chinese to confuse this routine patrol as being an attack.

The chinese this time choose to harass the patrol. At the time this was happening there must have been confusion about what the chinese intentions were in this incident and whether it was a prelude to invading Taiwan.

What the chinese did was probe the no mans land to see how the US Impeccable reacted. What they learned was the Impeccable was unarmed and could have been sunk very easily if they had chosen to do so. If china was invading Taiwan in an amphibious assault then this Impeccable would probably be one of the first targets. Now the US has to send a warship to to protect the routine patrol and now we wait to see of China choses to escalate or back down.

March 14, 2009 @ 8:56 am | Comment

most likely traveling a path well known to the chinese because it was not the first time in 60 years

This is where your speculation falls apart completely. I’m waiting for evidence to see that this was a “routine patrol” and not the U.S getting too close to spy on China’s subs.

March 14, 2009 @ 9:50 pm | Comment

ask the commanding officer at hainan what he knows about US Navy operations in the straights since 1949.

you may have noticed that you don’t hear much about the US harassing the chinese spy ships disquised as fishing boats operating around taiwan to do their own spying on their brother chinese’ military. that’s because they just watch them and see what the do and try to minimize their success in learning anything relevant. the US has not interest in escalating hostilities.

you can ask the commanding officer at hainan about that also when you conduct your interview.

the disturbing part of the recent incident is how heavy handed it was. the chinese tipped their hand and escalated the situation without really learning a whole lot.

they could read all about the Impeccable in their own copy of jane’s fighting ships and had an idea how vulnerable to a serious attack she is.

the harassment by the chinese was done for a reason. the reasons i can think of are:

1. PR stunt because of Tibet Uprising anniversary
2. Determine how the impeccable would react to the harassment to see how well armed it was, in order to include a plan for sinking it in their taiwan invasion plan
3. interrrupt the impeccables operation scanning for submarines so a chinese submarine could leave undetected on it’s own spy mission
4. interrupt the impeccables operation to map the under water topography of the taiwan straights
5. or this harassment was something a lower ranking fenqing person decided to do on their own and did not have authorization
6. payback for something that is not known publically.

i think 1 and 5 are the least likely reasons.

March 15, 2009 @ 12:50 am | Comment

ask the commanding officer at hainan what he knows about US Navy operations in the straights since 1949.

I’ll be sure to ask Hu Jintao what he ate for breakfast too.

You still need to substantiate your argument. I’m sure the Impeccable got far too close.

March 15, 2009 @ 4:35 am | Comment

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