The NYTimes’ “China Threat” Myth, The “Pivot To Asia,” and Obama’s Foreign Policy Legacy (October 2014)

Stephen Harner:  Forbes – 6/22/14


This Forbes article is one of the few Western media articles that provides an unbiased analysis of the U.S.’s foreign policy toward China in the Far East. The author is Mr. Stephen Harner, who has many years of experience in Asia, especially Japan and China, in both business and as a former Foreign Service Officer in the U.S. Department of State.

Referring to President Obama’s strategic military “pivot” or “rebalance” to Asia, i.e., the decision to redeploy 60% of American air and sea power to Asia by 2020, in order to counter an aggressive, hegemonic, expansionist China, Harner wrote:  “the narrative of an expansionist China is a myth.”  Furthermore, the NY Times’ 6/18/14 editorial entitled “China’s Power Grab Is Alarming” is also a myth.

As a matter of fact, he wrote “The reality is almost completely the opposite.  …  China claims sovereignty over the Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.  By China, we should understand not just the People’s Republic in Beijing, but its post-1911 predecessor, the Republic of China (i.e., the government on Taiwan), and the great China’s imperial dynasties dating back at least 1000 years.  The claim is based inter alia on discoveries by the Ming dynasty admiral Zheng He and by occupation of islands and exploitation of the surrounding waters for fishing by Chinese fishermen for hundreds of years.”

He continued “Five times–in 1970, 1971, 1978, 1980, and 1999–Philippine armed forces took actions that have placed nine islands claimed by China under foreign occupation.  Since occupying the islands, the Philippines has proceeded to build military installations and station some 1000 men on them.  Beyond occupying the islands, Manila has for years taken actions highly provocative to China, including arresting and expelling Chinese fisherman fishing in the disputed area. Chinese protests have been dismissed. In June 2011 the office of PI president Aquino declared that the South China Sea would henceforth be called the West Philippine Sea. In July 2011 a delegation of Philippine legislators landed on a Chinese-claimed island, declaring Philippine “sovereignty.”

Against this background, he wrote “what we–and The Times–should find remarkable is not China’s “maximalist stance in territorial disputes,” to quote the editorial, but Beijing’s restraint.”

He then quoted part of a talk by General Fang Fenghui, the Chief of the General Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, during his visit to the Pentagon on 5/15/14:  “China is conducting the exploitation activity within 12 nautical miles of the Zhongjian Islands which is a part of the Paracel Islands. And this is an activity conducted within our territorial water.  …  And secondly, the related countries in the South–in the South China Sea have drilled actually many oil wells in the South China Sea, but China has never drilled even one.  From this single fact, we can see how much restraint China has exercised.  And the purpose of this restraint is to keep–to maintain the stability of the South China Sea region.”

Harner concludes his article with:  “The supreme irony is that the ‘pivot’ policy –in essence an American reprise of Cold War “containment” now directed at China, fueling an arms race and U.S. alliance structure that is a growing threat to China– has emboldened the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as Japan, to oppose and challenge China, and to decline to negotiate in good faith to resolve disputes.  …  The New York Times is propagating a “China threat” myth and is biased, unfair, untrue, and, in the end, dangerous for the United States.”

In light of the current China-bashing by the Western mass media and U.S. political leaders as part of the U.S. policy to contain, surround, and weaken China via her collusion with several Asia nations to carry out that policy, it is refreshing to know that there are people who are courageous to point out the fallacy of the U.S.’s foreign policy.

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