17.12.2020 Author: Vladimir Terehov

East Asia Sees the Return of Former Colonialists


Two recent news stories force the author to once again address the question of what the two former major colonialists, the United Kingdom and France, are hoping to gain in East Asia.

On December 5, Kyodo agency, citing “government sources,” confirmed that indeed “no later than by the beginning of next year” an aircraft carrier strike group of the UK Navy, led by the newest British aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, will appear off the coast of Japan. Together with US and Japanese ships, the group will conduct exercises in the “western part of the Nansei Island Group”.

The last words are worth noting because there are five uninhabited Senkaku islands in this “western part,” which are under de facto Japanese control, but are claimed by China, where they are referred to by the toponym Diaoyu. In addition, China believes that these five islands are not part of the Nansei Group at all.

The situation in the Senkaku/Diaoyu area, which has been increasingly tense in recent years, was discussed, among other things, during the Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Tokyo on November 24-26.   The parties agreed to take measures to reduce tensions that have developed between them.

And this is where Japan’s “helpful” allies come in. Although this Japanese-American-British event was apparently agreed on long ago, today it may well prove ill-timed for Tokyo, which has embarked on a course of improving relations with Beijing. However, it is, of course, almost impossible to refuse the offered “allied aid”.

In addition, London put a worm on the hook in the form of an offer by Mitsubishi to conduct maintenance of the F-35B deck fighters, of which there are 40 on board the Queen Elizabeth. The fact is that Mitsubishi manufactures the 5th generation F-35 fighters of various configurations under license from the American company Lockheed Martin. That is, along with the “allied aid”, Queen Elizabeth will bring “a hefty addition” to the pockets of the leading Japanese company. Who could refuse that?

As for a possible French military appearance (apparently in the area of the same “western part of the Nansei island group”), the world news agencies reported about it on December 6, quoting one of the national Japanese newspapers, Sankei Shimbun. It is also reported that “next May” there will be military drills on land, at sea and in the air by unspecified units of the United States, Japan and France.

In contrast to the laconic British (who have always preferred words to deeds at the official level, which is worthy of note) Admiral Pierre Vandier, Chief of Staff of the French Navy, allowed himself some outbursts against the PRC. It is difficult to say whether or not he coordinated them with his own president, but curiously enough, three days later Emmanuel Macron had a telephone conversation with the Chinese leader Xi Jinping, the details of which, however, are left undisclosed.

It is also worth noting that, up until fairly recently, relations with the PRC in both France and the UK looked reasonably healthy. Five years ago, the leadership of the latter, represented by Prime Minister David Cameron, even discussed the onset of a “golden era” in bilateral relations. However, things then went somewhat wrong. On the surface lies the issue of human rights. But of course, this is not the true reason. What is, however, is still unclear.

As for the overall impression of the future action in East Asia with the participation of the UK and France, the author can already see a strong presence of comedy there. This, by the way, is how it is seen in China, the very same country that gets messages from the upcoming military-political “ballet” on the regional political scene.

And, indeed, two “honored veterans of colonial pirate labor” waddle along, leaning on their crutches. It is worth wondering whether today both “Long John Silvers” have any reflection at all on what they did in China in the middle of the 19th century, when the consequences of their “work” on the Chinese people were already well within the definition of the “Holocaust,” which appeared only a hundred years later.

Don’t they notice the current global problems, either? In addition to the coronavirus that affected them, the same region of Asia (from India to Japan) had an unprecedented rainy season in which thousands of villages were swept away. Locusts are rampant in some areas, and many face the threat of starvation. Shall we continue to divide Africa, or connect some remaining potential to solve the economic problems in the Third World?

By the way, that’s exactly what China is engaged in. Not without costs to said countries. But global designing is a completely new task for China, which itself is still learning “by being in the process,” that is, by correcting mistakes made along the way. Why not join its efforts?

It is possible, of course, to present the discussed campaign to the Far East of two former colonialists (apparently suffering from nostalgia for the past) as an expression of the NATO expanding its area of responsibility, outlined in a certain document, which spells out the development plan of this organization until 2030.

In the author’s view, however, this document is just a by-product of some bureaucratic office. The chiefs of staff who put it together simply “utilized” (as best they could) the budget funds. It’s hardly worth the paper it’s written on. Just like various other “National Security Strategies”.

Are these political cripples in a state of chaos capable of planning something sensible ten years in advance in a joint format? Only China can plan, for it is built in a systematic fashion and is led by a party steeped in thought and planning.

As for the “free world,” it is very likely that an international peacekeeping force must be prepared now to maintain at least some order in the territory of its leader. You know, to protect the nuclear arsenal and all that.  Besides, the author pities the 300 odd million of a rather crazy, but nevertheless talented and sympathetic nation that had made a major contribution to world culture in its short, controversial history.

In Europe, too, one can hear the impatient rattle of skeleton bones locked in a closet since 1945.  It has long been said that long-standing problems in the European strategic triangle of “UK-Germany-France” are likely to be brought up to date. Then there is the equally likely turmoil in the Eastern European “gray zone”. Meanwhile, the Brussels “European government” keeps puffing up its cheeks and “planning” something there as well.

As for the situation in Asia, to the eastern borders of which two former major colonialists are being sent, it is crucial to establish an atmosphere of trust in the “China-India-Japan” triangle of leading Asian countries. Only this time, the descendants of the “white man’s burden” bearers will be prevented from sticking their prying noses around again.

Vladimir Terekhov, expert on the issues of the Asia-Pacific region, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.