In The Diplomat magazine (December 15, 2017 issue) R G Almond writes that on October 18, 2017, at the 19th Party Congress, China’s president Mr Xi proclaimed that he will lead China into a “new era.” Fuelled by its remarkable economic successes and rapid military growth China sees a strategic opportunity to expand national power and achieve objectives such as unification with Taiwan and control of disputed territory along China’s periphery.
dominant military power
A former Australian Senator, Jim Talent, says that China has become, in its region, the dominant military power explaining why it has made aggressive claims over the South and East China Seas, and shown hostile attitudes to its near neighbours like Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Japan and India.
Further afield, says Almond, Beijing is also flexing its muscles. Last August China opened a strategic military base in Djibouti, near the Gulf of Aden, adjacent to the Arabian Sea. This is not far from a US military base. President Xi is also pushing China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ (OBOR) scheme of interconnected multimodal corridors linking China with Asia, Africa, and Europe, and encompassing approximately 60 countries. Xi pledged an additional $124 billion for OBOR’s large-scale infrastructure projects, which involve financing by Chinese banks. Using its economic and trading clout, China is trying to influence foreign policy in many countries to its advantage.
enhancing military capabilities
Almond analyses China’s focus on enhancing its already significant military capabilities. This enhancement is supported by larger budgets, better military intelligence, and more sophisticated technology including cyber capabilities, unmanned aerial and underwater vehicles and space-based weapons (in which it is not alone). Almond concludes that it not difficult to see that these developments “will lead to a new and dangerous phase in international relations.”
Concerns have been expressed about the Chinese government meddling in Australian politics. An example is former Senator Dastyari who is alleged to have connections with an Australia-based Chinese businessman with apparent Chinese Communist Party links. The allegations were so serious that Dastyari was forced to resign as senator. There are also concerns about Chinese influence in Australian universities. Other countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand, are concerned as well that China is seeking to influence government policy and universities through underhand methods.
There is another, very serious issue. Under the leadership of president Xi persecution of human rights activists, critics and Christian churches inside China has increased markedly. A recent report by China Aid says: “China continue[s] to persecute individual Christians at a frequency unseen since the Cultural Revolution.” Comparing statistics gathered in 2015, China Aid discovered consistent increases across six different categories of persecution in 2016. These include:
- number of persecution cases (up 20.2 percent),
- number of people detained (up 147.6 percent),
- the number of people arrested (up 11 percent),
- the number of people sentenced (up 30 percent),
- the number of abuse cases (up 42.6 percent),
- and the number of people abused (up 69.5 percent).
These data illustrates China’s alarming regression into a more Maoist regime, and conditions are expected to worsen this year as the Revised Regulations on Religious Affairs goes into effect nationwide. These new regulations seek to further limit religious activity and indicate a catastrophic potential to place more Christians behind bars.
The persecution of the Lord’s church is a very serious matter, not only for the church, but also for the perpetrator. The Lord will not allow such serious sins to go unpunished.
It is not surprising that are discussions and plans for push back against China. The US has just released its 2018 National Defence Strategy. It identifies China and Russia as greater threats to national security than terrorism. The document says “China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of its neighbors. As well, North Korea’s outlaw actions and reckless rhetoric continue despite United Nation’s censure and sanctions. Iran continues to sow violence and remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability.”
The Strategy puts forward strategies to counter them. For example, it says the US will strengthen its military force. It will also reinforce its “alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific to a networked security architecture capable of deterring aggression, maintaining stability, and ensuring free access to common domains.” An example of the latter is to maintain access through the South China Sea. Australian Defence minister Marise Payne said recently that Australia shared similar concerns as those expressed in the US 2018 Strategy.
Prime Minister Turnbull, has introduced legislation to counter foreign interference in Australian politics in response to Chinese activities. Peter Varghese (former head of Foreign Affairs and Trade) will shortly hand a new report to the Australian government recommending deeper economic and trade links with India. One reason for this recommendation: Australia should diversify it risks and reduce its economic dependence on China. India and Japan are planning major infrastructure projects in Africa, Iran, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, to compete with China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ project.
Many prayers are necessary for the safety of nations, and importantly the wellbeing of the Christian churches.
Almonds entire article can be viewed here.
A summary of the US 2018 Defence strategy can be viewed here.