The Pentagon Expands Its Provocative Encirclement of China

It failed to make headlines, but the recent change in name of the U.S. Pacific Command is an ominous sign of a coming U.S. confrontation with China, argues Michael T. Klare.

By Michael T. Klare

U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced a momentous shift in American global strategic policy in a little noticed statement on May 30.

From now on, he decreed, the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), which oversees all U.S. military forces in Asia, will be called the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM). The name change, Mattis explained, reflects “the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans,” as well as Washington’s determination to remain the dominant power in both.   

Such a name change may not sound like much, but someday you may look back and realize that it couldn’t have been more consequential or ominous.  Think of it as a signal that the U.S. military is already setting the stage for eventual confrontation with China.

If, until now, you hadn’t read about Mattis’s decision anywhere, it’s not surprising as the media gave it virtually no attention — less certainly than would have been accorded the least significant tweet Donald Trump ever dispatched.  What coverage it did receive treated the name change as no more than a passing “symbolic” gesture, a Pentagon ploy to encourage India to join Japan, Australia, and other U.S. allies in America’s Pacific alliance system.

“In Symbolic Nod to India, U.S. Pacific Command Changes Name” was the headline of a Reuters story on the subject and, to the extent that any attention was paid, it was typical.

That the media’s military analysts failed to notice anything more than symbolism in the deep-sixing of PACOM shouldn’t be surprising, given all the attention being paid to other major international developments — the pyrotechnics of the Korean summit in Singapore, the insults traded at and after the G7 meeting in Canada, or the ominous gathering storm over Iran. 

Add to this the poor grasp so many journalists have of the nature of the U.S. military’s strategic thinking.  Still, Mattis himself has not been shy about the geopolitical significance of linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans in such planning.  In fact, it represents a fundamental shift in U.S. military thinking with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Threatening Language

Consider the backdrop to the name change: in recent months, the U.S. has stepped up its naval patrols in waters adjacent to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea (as has China), raising the prospect of future clashes between the warships of the two countries. Such moves have been accompanied by ever more threatening language from the Department of Defense (DoD), indicating an intent to do nothing less than engage China militarily if that country’s build-up in the region continues.  “When it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences,” Mattis declared at the Shangri La Strategic Dialogue in Singapore on June 2nd.

Mattis: “There will be consequences.” (US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Joshua Fulton/Released, June 2, 2018.)

As a preliminary indication of what he meant by this, Mattis promptly disinvited the Chinese from the world’s largest multinational naval exercise, the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), conducted annually under American auspices.  “But that’s a relatively small consequence,” he added ominously, “and I believe there are much larger consequences in the future.”  With that in mind, he soon announced that the Pentagon is planning to conduct “a steady drumbeat” of naval operations in waters abutting those Chinese-occupied islands, which should raise the heat between the two countries and could create the conditions for a miscalculation, a mistake, or even an accident at sea that might lead to far worse.

In addition to its plans to heighten naval tensions in seas adjacent to China, the Pentagon has been laboring to strengthen its military ties with U.S.-friendly states on China’s perimeter, all clearly part of a long-term drive, in Cold War fashion, to “contain” Chinese power in Asia. 

On June 8th, for example, the DoD launched Malabar 2018, a joint Pacific Ocean naval exercise involving forces from India, Japan, and the United States.  Incorporating once neutral India into America’s anti-Chinese “Pacific” alliance system in this and other ways has, in fact, become a major twenty-first-century goal of the Pentagon, posing a significant new threat to China.

For decades, the principal objective of U.S. strategy in Asia had been to bolster key Pacific allies Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, while containing Chinese power in adjacent waters, including the East and South China Seas.  However, in recent times, China has sought to spread its influence into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, in part by extolling its staggeringly ambitious “One Belt, One Road” trade and infrastructure initiative for the Eurasian continent and Africa.

That vast project is clearly meant both as a unique vehicle for cooperation and a way to tie much of Eurasia into a future China-centered economic and energy system. Threatened by visions of such a future, American strategists have moved ever more decisively to constrain Chinese outreach in those very areas. That, then, is the context for the sudden concerted drive by U.S. military strategists to link the Indian and Pacific Oceans and so encircle China with pro-American, anti-Chinese alliance systems. The name change on May 30 is a formal acknowledgement of an encirclement strategy that couldn’t, in the long run, be more dangerous.

‘Many Belts and Many Roads’

To grasp the ramifications of such moves, some background on the former PACOM might be useful.  Originally known as the Far East Command, PACOM was established in 1947 and has been headquartered at U.S. bases near Honolulu, Hawaii, ever since. As now constituted, its “area of responsibility” encompasses a mind-boggling expanse: all of East, South, and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans — in other words, an area covering about 50 percent of the Earth’s surface and incorporating more than half of the global population.

Though the Pentagon divides the whole planet like a giant pie into a set of “unified commands,” none of them is larger than the newly expansive, newly named Indo-Pacific Command, with its 375,000 military and civilian personnel.

Before the Indian Ocean was explicitly incorporated into its fold, PACOM mainly focused on maintaining control of the western Pacific, especially in waters around a number of friendly island and peninsula states like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines.

Its force structure has largely been composed of air and naval squadrons, along with a large Marine Corps presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Its most powerful combat unit is the U.S. Pacific Fleet — like the area it now covers, the largest in the world.  It’s made up of the 3rd and 7th Fleets, which together have approximately 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 sailors, pilots, Marines, and civilians.

The name change ceremony in Honolulu, May 30, 2018.

On a day-to-day basis, until recently, the biggest worry confronting the command was the possibility of a conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea. During the late fall of 2017 and the winter of 2018, PACOM engaged in a continuing series of exercises designed to test its forces’ ability to overcome North Korean defenses and destroy its major military assets, including nuclear and missile facilities. These were undoubtedly intended, above all, as a warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about what he could expect if he continued down the path of endless provocative missile and nuclear tests.  It seems that, at least for the time being, President Trump has suspended such drills as a result of his summit meeting with Kim.

North Korea aside, the principal preoccupation of PACOM commanders has long been the rising power of China and how to contain it.  This was evident at the May 30 ceremony in Hawaii at which Mattis announced that expansive name change and presided over a change-of-command ceremony, in which outgoing commander, Admiral Harry Harris Jr., was replaced by Admiral Phil Davidson.  (Given the naval-centric nature of its mission, the command is almost invariably headed by an admiral.)

‘Ready to Confront Them When We Must’

While avoiding any direct mention of China in his opening remarks, Mattis left not a smidgeon of uncertainty that the command’s new name was a challenge and a call for the future mobilization of regional opposition across a vast stretch of the planet to China’s dreams and desires.  Other nations welcome U.S. support, he insisted, as they prefer an environment of “free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion, for the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads.”  No one could mistake the meaning of that.

Departing Admiral Harris was blunter still.  Although “North Korea remains our most immediate threat,” he declared, “China remains our biggest long-term challenge.”  He then offered a warning: without the stepped-up efforts of the U.S. and its allies to constrain Beijing, “China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia.”

Yes, he admitted, it was still possible to cooperate with the Chinese on limited issues, but we should “stand ready to confront them when we must.” (On May 18, Admiral Harris was nominated by President Trump as the future U.S. ambassador to South Korea, which will place a former military man at the U.S. Embassy in Seoul.)

Harris: Ready to confront China when he must.

Harris’s successor, Admiral Davidson, seems, if anything, even more determined to put confronting China atop the command’s agenda.  During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17, he repeatedly highlightedthe threat posed by Chinese military activities in the South China Sea and promised to resist them vigorously.

Once [the South China Sea islands are] occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania,” he warned.  “The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] will be able to use these bases to challenge U.S. presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

Is that, then, what Admiral Davidson sees in our future?  War with China in those waters?

His testimony made it crystal clear that his primary objective as head of the Indo-Pacific Command will be nothing less than training and equipping the forces under him for just such a future war, while enlisting the militaries of as many allies as possible in the Pentagon’s campaign to encircle that country.  “To prevent a situation where China is more likely to win a conflict,” he affirmed in his version of Pentagonese, “we must resource high-end capabilities in a timely fashion, preserve our network of allies and partners, and continue to recruit and train the best soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coastguardsmen in the world.”

Davidson’s first priority is to procure advanced weaponry and integrate it into the command’s force structure, ensuring that American combatants will always enjoy a technological advantage over their Chinese counterparts in any future confrontation.

Almost as important, he, like his predecessors, seeks to bolster America’s military ties with other members of the contain-China club.  This is where India comes in. Like the United States, its leadership is deeply concerned with China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean region, including the opening of a future port/naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan, and another potential one on the island of Sri Lanka, both in the Indian Ocean.

Not surprisingly, given the periodic clashes between Chinese and Indian forces along their joint Himalayan borderlands and the permanent deployment of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has shown himself to be increasingly disposed to join Washington in military arrangements aimed at limiting China’s geopolitical reach.

US 7th Fleet: In its very extended backyard.

An enduring strategic partnership with India comports with U.S. goals and objectives in the Indo-Pacific,” Admiral Davidson said in his recent congressional testimony. Once installed as commander, he continued, “I will maintain the positive momentum and trajectory of our burgeoning strategic partnership.” His particular goal: to “increase maritime security cooperation.”

And so we arrive at the Indo-Pacific Command and a future shadowed by the potential for great power war.

The View from Beijing

The way the name change at PACOM was covered in the U.S., you would think it reflected, at most, a benign wish for greater economic connections between the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, as well, perhaps, as a nod to America’s growing relationship with India. Nowhere was there any hint that what might lie behind it was a hostile and potentially threatening new approach to China — or that it could conceivably be perceived that way in Beijing. But there can be no doubt that the Chinese view such moves, including recent provocative naval operations in the disputed Paracel Islands of the South China Sea, as significant perils.

When, in late May, the Pentagon dispatched two warships — the USS Higgins, a destroyer, and the USS Antietam, a cruiser — into the waters near one of those newly fortified islands, the Chinese responded by sending in some of their own warships while issuing a statement condemning the provocative American naval patrols. The U.S. action, saida Chinese military spokesperson, “seriously violated China’s sovereignty [and] undermined strategic mutual trust.” Describedby the Pentagon as “freedom of navigation operations” (FRONOPs), such patrols are set to be increased at the behest of Mattis.

Of course, the Chinese are hardly blameless in the escalating tensions in the region. They have continued to militarize South China Sea islands whose ownership is in dispute, despite a promise that Chinese President Xi Jinping made to President Obama in 2015 not to do so.  Some of those islands in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries in the area and have been the subject of intensifying, often bitter disagreements among them about where rightful ownership really lies.

Beijing has simply claimed sovereignty over all of them and refuses to compromise on the issue. By fortifying them — which American military commanders see as a latent military threat to U.S. forces in the region — Beijing has provoked a particularly fierce U.S. reaction, though these are obviously waters relatively close to China, but many thousands of miles from the continental United States.

From Beijing, the strategic outlook articulated by Secretary Mattis, as well as Admirals Harris and Davidson, is clearly viewed—and not without reason—as threatening and as evidence of Washington’s master plan to surround China, confine it, and prevent it from ever achieving the regional dominance its leaders believe is its due as the rising great power on the planet.

To the Chinese leadership, changing PACOM’s name to the Indo-Pacific Command will just be another signal of Washington’s determination to extend its unprecedented military presence westward from the Pacific around Southeast Asia into the Indian Ocean and so further restrain the attainment of what it sees as China’s legitimate destiny.

Xi: Not pleased. (Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

However Chinese leaders end up responding to such strategic moves, one thing is certain: they will not view them with indifference.

On the contrary, as challenged great powers have always done, they will undoubtedly seek ways to counter America’s containment strategy by whatever means are at hand. These may not initially be overtly military or even obvious, but in the long run they will certainly be vigorous and persistent.

They will include efforts to compete with Washington in pursuit of Asian allies — as seen in Beijing’s fervent courtship of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines — and to secure new basing arrangements abroad, possibly under the pretext, as in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, of establishing commercial shipping terminals. All of this will only add new tensions to an already anxiety-inducing relationship with the United States. As ever more warships from both countries patrol the region, the likelihood that accidents will occur, mistakes will be made, and future military clashes will result can only increase.

With the possibility of war with North Korea fading in the wake of the recent Singapore summit, one thing is guaranteed: the new U.S. Indo-Pacific Command will only devote itself ever more fervently to what is already its one overriding priority: preparing for a conflict with China.

Its commanders insist that they do not seek such a war, and believe that their preparations — by demonstrating America’s strength and resolve — will deter the Chinese from ever challenging American supremacy. That, however, is a fantasy.

In reality, a strategy that calls for a “steady drumbeat” of naval operations aimed at intimidating China in waters near that country will create ever more possibilities, however unintended, of sparking the very conflagration that it is, at least theoretically, designed to prevent.

Right now, a Sino-American war sounds like the plot-line of some half-baked dystopian novel. Unfortunately, given the direction in which both countries (and their militaries) are heading, it could, in the relatively near future, become a grim reality.

This article originally appeared on TomDispatch. 

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left. A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil is available from the Media Education FoundationFollow him on Twitter at @mklare1.

50 comments for “The Pentagon Expands Its Provocative Encirclement of China

  1. Revenant
    June 23, 2018 at 00:20

    The outright arrogance of the US Corporate States with its flagrant disregard of the constitution is what will bring this Empire of Lies to its Waterloo.

  2. rosemerry
    June 22, 2018 at 16:35

    So we must all believe, against all evidence, that China (which is not allowed even to have control of the South China Sea) is a real threat to the globe but the USA needs to be in charge of us all for our own good.

  3. Paul G.
    June 22, 2018 at 14:20

    “…the likelihood that accidents will occur, mistakes will be made,..” Considering the Navy’s record of navigational calamities recently and in the less recent past; that likelihood is very valid. Of course, they seem to be most threatened by merchant vessels as Navy skippers have shown an arrogant disregard for COLREGS and blunder into their path.

    Re the mention of the Coast Guard: The CG yearly budget, between $10- 12 billion, is less than the cost of the USS Gerald Ford $14 billion. Yet they are expected to tag along on Navy operations when they are stretched thin in their appropriate roles of busting druggies, pulling soggy mariners out of the water, inspecting ships at home and busting ice channels into Antarctica.

  4. Known Unlnowns
    June 22, 2018 at 01:02

    > The US has become the antithesis of what it stood for before WWII, i.e. a country which was largely against war and/or foreign interventions.

    This is a fantasy view of the past. The United States was an expansionist power throughout most of its history and remains one today.

    • Deschutes
      June 22, 2018 at 09:28

      Known ‘Unknowns’ – your moniker seems most appropriate as you are definitely not knowing, i.e. regarding US foreign policy before WWII in contrast to after WWII. I took that quote from Fletcher Prouty, a high ranking US military colonel during WWII and CIA veteran who literally watched how the CIA was created from nothing. I’ll take his word over yours any day, Unknown.

      • June 24, 2018 at 00:10

        The CIA, yes, imperialism, no. Prouty described the rapid development of covert operations under Alan Dulles, Edward Lansdale et al. (evaded entirely by Ken Burns in his epic limited hangout, with Vietnam’s Phoenix Program an experimental laboratory replicated continuously thereafter, not “a terrible mistake”). Before WWII, we had the original colonies east of the Appalachians expanding into “territories” via Manifest Destiny (the Indian Wars were the colonies’ foreign policy) and the deceptively instigated Mexican War (as Lincoln later observed, “By telling the truth, Polk got what he could not have gotten by telling the whole truth”) that stole 40% of Mexico, eventually consuming the entire middle of North America sea-to-sea. We then had the Spanish-American War seizing ever more territory beyond our borders, and the multiple Marine expeditions against Central American “banana republics” (justified by the 1823 Monroe Doctrine) plus some ‘”gunboat diplomacy” in China. Gen. Smedley Butler’s book, “War is a Racket” laid this all out in 1936. The CIA et al. simply learned how to do it more quietly and cheaply by manipulating people to kill each other and overthrow their own gov’ts. Known Unknowns is absolutely correct.

  5. T
    June 21, 2018 at 16:07

    And yesterday a news item reported that Chinese investment in the USA has dropped by more than 90% recently…

    How does that tie in?, he asked nervously.

  6. Deschutes
    June 21, 2018 at 09:06

    The USA after WWII publicly extolled that it ‘would never violate the sovereignty of other nations’. How far we have come since then, as the US military has thousands of bases on every continent in the world, and is now militarizing space. The US has become the antithesis of what it stood for before WWII, i.e. a country which was largely against war and/or foreign interventions. At the point we are currently at the US military and government are totally out of control and answerable to nobody but its own deep state spooks, acting as if it is entitled to sanction, bomb, invade and occupy any country as it sees fit. It is entirely understandable that China wants control of the S. China Sea: and why not? It is their coastline. And the US government thinks it is entitled to occupy and control China’s coastline? Ridiculous arrogance. Imagine how Washington would react if China started having its navy regularly traveling up and down the west coast of the USA. It would be instant war. All things considered the USA vs. China military standoff is a very dangerous situation and I don’t think it will end peacefully, as this author suggests.

  7. Joe Tedesky
    June 21, 2018 at 08:16

    The U.S. drops a bomb every 12 minutes.

    We may be surrounding China, and Russia, but on the perimeters of those nations the nation’s encircling the two biggest nuclear threats, are a lot of countries being bomb back into the Stone Age. For crying out loud, there are families with children, and the U.S. is killing them. For the love of humanity the U.S. should just stop.

    • mike
      June 21, 2018 at 13:00

      Yes, yes, yes JT. I still don’t get the strategy of surrounding Russia and China. For decades it was an either/ or strategy: forge an alliance with Russia to isolate China (Kissinger) or ally with China to isolate Russia (Brzezinksi.) The current plan seems to drive China and Russia into each other’s arms – which would definitely be bad for business.

      • Joe Tedesky
        June 21, 2018 at 13:23

        Glad you thought to mention the Russia China growing relationship….whoops there goes Nixon’s China Russia Wedge strategy. What we are witnessing is an out of control MIC. Talk about putting all your eggs into one basket, well this is what the U.S. has done with it’s militarist approach to everything. Detente losses every time against military escalations. Then it’s kiss any domestic spending good bye, as 53% of every tax dollar goes to war. Since America needs an enemy, it is guaranteed that terrorism will have a long shelve life. That is until terrorism is replaced with a Russian or Chinese enemy…oh Iran should be included, because without Iran as an enemy, then what would our poor Israeli friends do?

        Thanks for the reply mike. Joe

        • Abby
          June 21, 2018 at 18:57

          I think we are going to be kissing any domestic spending anyway. Have you seen the two recent moves that the GOP are taking? They are totally demolishing the New Deal.

          Sorry not to be able to include a link from my phone.

      • Sam F
        June 21, 2018 at 20:27

        Agreed, Mike and Joe, we have an out-of-control MIC and the NSC/JCS/DNI/NSA to surround the admin and keep the focus on military action instead of diplomacy and development. Woodward’s books on decision making in the Bush and Obama admins show this clearly. Put them all together, and even the generals can see that all of the solutions require diplomacy and development, but they shrug their shoulders at that and get right back to escalating no-win situations and bombing for no particular reason.

        Our government is very poorly structured to make complex decisions, and from that state it has long been very completely corrupted by money. If we had had a National Plumbing Council instead of the NSC, we would have had massive plumbing disaster relief since WWII instead of wars. The Pres needs to abolish the NSC completely and invite the DNI/NSA/JCS to the WH if and when we are attacked, say in a few centuries. If we must have national councils, let them be councils of diplomacy and development.

        The good news is that the USG is so incompetent and greedy that it is destroying the national interests, and will set itself back into irrelevance within a generation. That will make the MIC irrelevant and unaffordable.

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 22, 2018 at 10:07

          Sam imagine you install glass for a living, and when you install a new piece of glass you immediately take a hammer to it. Well that’s job security for ya, and our Pentagon is just the repeat customer these MIC bandits need to profit from. Bogged down, means more profit over winning, and with that we all fall down. Accountability is left to the next warmonger to ignore any justice, as the beat goes on to more destruction, but as to pay no never mind to that man behind the screen, because again it is more profitable to wage continual war. War, war, and more war, but yet the beat goes on. Joe

          • Sam F
            June 22, 2018 at 19:14

            Yes, although I continue reading Woodward for clues to how admins fall for the military scams. Obama seems to have held out for rationales for Afghan surges, but the rightwing senators and generals and mass media just turned up the “Mighty Wurlitzer” of fearmongering, disaster if we don’t escalate, with no plan at all for any solution. As you note, they just want to keep the machine running, and quagmires work just fine. Perhaps that was the problem of Hitler and Napoleon (and even Alexander the Great and others).

            So I think the answer is to keep the military from all exec branch decision-making unless we are under actual serious attack (not isolated incidents). 80% of the military should be re-purposed to international (and some domestic) development, especially where the US has destroyed nations.

          • Sam F
            June 22, 2018 at 19:28

            And I should add, keep the exec branch out of policymaking, for which it has no constitutional authority whatsoever, and has used NATO as the excuse to claim warmaking powers that it does not have, by pretending that we are constantly under attack. Congress is cowardly and complicit to permit such a seizure of unconstitutional powers by the exec branch.

          • Joe Tedesky
            June 23, 2018 at 17:28

            Sam I sometimes wonder how much power the Pentagon has. Like could they possibly leave a president, or even the riches person in the world, with an ultimatum which would be hard for them to refuse? Wouldn’t it make sense that if you had the world’s largest military in your right hand pocket, that you could demand anything of anybody? I mean having control over a military as mighty as ours, wouldn’t it be rather inviting to go behind the scenes and make threats to get your own way? I further wonder to what military would these victims of this hard nosed military pressure have to combat such a power? Joe

          • Sam F
            June 24, 2018 at 15:23

            Although certainly the military could attempt direct control, there are so many divisions that they would have to be in 90% agreement to get away with it. In that role, I would send the FBI/CIA/DIA to seize the chiefs, or send in the DC police and a live TV crew to arrest them one at a time, and see who resists. But then they control much of mass media, so one would have to find outlets to announce the decisions in advance to avoid coverups. One could seize some of the controlled mass media temporarily, or send announcements to CN and Wikileaks et al before decapitating each rogue agency.

            Reading Woodward, it appears that they simply surround the admin in the WH with wide-eyed defeat-if-you-don’t-escalate boys loaded with medals, and completely control the social environment there, as well as senators and stink tanks to announce the disloyalty of dissenters. Down with the NSC.

      • Paul G.
        June 22, 2018 at 14:25

        As China and Russia are in the process of dropping the dollar as an international exchange currency, this is certainly true. Bretton Woods go by-by.

      • June 24, 2018 at 00:35

        Russia and China are already embraced in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, joined last year by India and Pakistan, incorporating all the -stans except Afghanistan with massive undeveloped resources, with Iran a de facto member, developing China’s one belt-one road (New Silk Road) project with their own central development bank, a rapidly expanding 240 mph rail network, effective control of Brzezinski’s Grand Chessboard (Eurasia), and enough advanced military capabilities to protect it from us. While we have been squandering our taxpayer and political capital on regime-change mass murder and mayhem, they have been masterfully moving their pieces into place for the checkmate. From Ukraine to the South China Sea, there’s a new sheriff in town. This is undoubtedly why PACCOM is expanding into the Indian Ocean. (The US applied for SCO membership but was refused.)

  8. KiwiAntz
    June 21, 2018 at 03:49

    John Pilger has a documentary that was shown on the RT Channel that dealt specifically with this very subject matter. Called “The Coming War with China”, it goes into great details on how America has been incircling China as part of a containment strategy! America has already started its pre-War engagement,firstly with the start of soft power via economic warfare which is a form of financial terrorism through Trade tariffs & sanctions? Whether this containment leads to a hot war is debatable as the US wouldn’t dare attack China, China could nuke America back to the stone age if push came to shove! America’s attempts to thwart China won’t succeed though as China has already has its own Banking system bypassing the swift model & set up its Yuan for Oil deals therefore bypassing the US Petrodollar system. China is the future with its One Belt, One Road Initiative while America is a waning, dying Empire of the Past, looking in the rear view mirror on a Colonial model that is obsolete.

  9. June 21, 2018 at 00:17

    I don’t see that there is any reason for military conflict between China and the USA other than yet another “threat” manufactured by the US national security state to keep military contractors happy and the suckers (our citizenry) in thrall. China, like every other major country, uses its military forces for defense against U.S. aggression. Does China have the same imperial ambition that the USA has? Their history would indicate that, like Russia, they are not. What would be the point? Their economic initiatives are the only major threat the USA faces and the USA can’t win on that front because the it is only interested in war (win/lose) not win/win situations.

    Like it or not we are globalized society and China is and will continue to be an intricate part of that and the USA cannot stop that or hinder that short of military invasion and massive bombing.

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 21, 2018 at 08:29

      Hey Banger, good comment.

      The U.S. should be deemed by law to contain its defenses to within 400 to 500 mike radius of its borders for protection. This is actually the Russian model. I would also add this should be an international law, along with countries not being allowed to have for profit militaries. Russia has 2 ports outside of its homeland, while the U.S. has somewhere in the neighborhood of 800 to 1000. If Chinese and Russian weapon technology is what it is said to be then our whole U.S. aircraft carrier groups are now obsolete. Both countries have hyper activated missiles, that travel upwards to 4500 miles per hour, which could without notice destroy those sitting duck U.S. aircraft carriers, and with that I say, what in the world are we doing saber rattling with these 2 most powerful countries.

      The MIC Beast is out of control, and I seriously wonder if one person, like a president, can stop it. The U.S. has created its own kind of war Frankenstein and now it’s choking the life of the very country this war strategy was meant to protect. This gives new meaning to the cliche ‘Over Kill’. Joe

      • June 21, 2018 at 16:37

        Joe, you don’t think a strong US President can stand up to the MIC? What about Kennedy? . . . Oh never mind.

        • Joe Tedesky
          June 22, 2018 at 10:08


    • rosemerry
      June 22, 2018 at 16:40

      Excellent comment. China seems determined to expand trade, investment and cooperation via the BRI, while the USA is intent on conflict, threats, sanctions, invasions, destruction.

  10. mike k
    June 20, 2018 at 19:59

    The drive to rule the world has been the curse on human history. This cursed epitome of hubris may be the end of humanity on this planet. Our future depends on our embracing the humility to do less, and share more. All the problems we consider here depend on this dynamic and it’s outcome. There are no viable solutions that do not begin with the word “less”.

    • Known Unknown
      June 22, 2018 at 01:17

      Unfortunately the west cannot even imagine living in a world without its wasteful, resource hoggIng lifestyle. Everyone is all for “doing something” about climate change, say, but that all comes to an end when they realize they might have to give up some of the conveniences they take for granted. So they bury their heads in the sand and pretend all is well.

  11. elmerfudzie
    June 20, 2018 at 19:33

    Bilderberg 2017 arrived a the conclusion that western military incursions into Iran are strictly off limits, otherwise where will be World War Three. There’s just too much European (EU) money invested into the Iranian economy

    Since 1975, the Chinese government has permitted the importation of hundreds of Corporations from America. Not only their means of production but intellectual property, rights and associated technicians as well. The so called military “encirclement” is at best, just another “western Occident MIC money maker” and at worst, a threat or reminder to the CCP never to call in the “chips” held by China, by demanding that the value of there US bonds held, be exchanged exclusively, in actual metallic gold; actual gold stores that Fort Knox or the Bank of Hawaii does not have (or will ever let go of)

  12. Sam F
    June 20, 2018 at 18:55

    This does not signify any risk of war: just political noise to distract from US aggressions in the Mideast to feed zionist MIC bribes to politicians. The usual warmonger bully strategy is to harass others to cause a reaction that it can pretend is a provocation to escalation. The tyrants need that to pose with the flag and demand domestic power as fake protectors, and accuse their moral superiors of disloyalty. They are in fact cowards and will only attack small defenseless countries.

    It would be bad enough if the US were being paid as a mercenary to stir up trouble and cause genocides. But instead it is mortgaging its future for no possible benefit but bribes to politicians from the MIC and zionists, leading to certain ruin for the US.

    Any US efforts to deny China a sphere of influence in the S China Sea should lead to China asserting influence in the Caribbean and S America. China would be quite justified in allying with Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, and Nicaragua, building military bases there, sending a navy to the Caribbean, and denouncing the US for its greedy intentions there. They would certainly be on the side of justice in that one.

  13. June 20, 2018 at 18:05

    If this is the same Michael who predicted decades ago that the world was running out of oil, he has some ground to make up. Of course the CIA told Carter that over forty years ago.

    His point in this instance is well taken. We want to bully the world and that is becoming increasingly difficult. When you think of it, that bullying never started post World War II until the USSR dissolved.. It will probably come to an end soon. if it hasn’t already.

  14. Babyl-on
    June 20, 2018 at 17:45

    In my view the article has a decidedly anti-China bias. Also the author misunderstands China’s policies and points of view. China is not seeking hegemony anywhere, China has fairly good relations with all the claimants in the South China Sea and is working through ad with ASIAN for a regional group to settle these matters. The US has no right other than it believes it owns the world to have any say what-so-ever.

    Yes, the doom and gloom of US military build up is coming and that has been known for a long time. Obama courted Modi heavily and was pretty successful Modi went full Neoliberal and started really getting friendly with the US buying arms and doing some exercises together – then came Trump who put tariffs on Indian steel and is untrustworthy,

    More important and which is a glaring omission is the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) which now has China, Russia, India and Pakistan as members they had a hugely successful meeting same time as the G7 of course everyone in the west just ignores it. Modi has been on a 3 day trim to visit Xi and the met again at the SCO — this is the new G7 far bigger population, land mass and potential than the G7.

    India is the odd man out in all of Asia with its opposition to B&R and it is starting to cost India a price through SCO there is a possibility of talks with Pakistan – the mood in India is changing the press is less hostile to China. So the US can Indo its Pacific all it likes there is no guarantee India will stay on side.

    China and Asia are there own center of power now – it no longer all revolves around the big bad US the and its threats the way this article does – they are just what the rest of the world have to live with and manage.

    Yes, the US build up is ominous but all the US really has are frayed old WWII allies some going away such as the Philippines even Vietnam is working with China. The US has lost credibility, lost the narrative and is loosing in tech innovation and advanced weapons to China and Russia. The US is openly corrupt and throwing its weight around, but that is all it has – a huge military which will not and can not contain China or solve any of the other problems the US has.

    Western journalists really need to pay attention to what China says and does. A community of common destiny is not hegemony nor is it the desire to confront anyone. Geopolitics is no longer a zero sum game.

    • Sam F
      June 20, 2018 at 19:04

      Yes, the US is “openly corrupt and throwing its weight around, but that is all it has.” It could not have been more misgoverned and corrupt since WWII, despite glimmers of sanity. The world knows full well and the US is doomed to debt and demise. The restoration of US democracy cannot begin until it is fully humiliated and discredited.

      • Babyl-on
        June 20, 2018 at 19:16

        Why resurrect a system that is flawed and failed utterly? “Democracy” is not sacred and immutable it is not a law of nature and it is definitely not “the end of history” – Western Liberal Democracy based on Calvinist extremism is dead forever I hope. Nothing in this world is either certain or inalienable. No “creator” gives me “rights” I have what is there for us all to take “The Will to Power.”

        • Sam F
          June 21, 2018 at 08:00

          Well, that sounds rather like anarchism, the denial that physical force must be regulated. Now we have economic power and information power to regulate as well. Removing government altogether leaves the base problems unsolved. Fixing the problems of government structure looks far more promising. But perhaps you have some other structure in mind.

          • Babyl-on
            June 21, 2018 at 08:48

            I guess I misspoke, I am not an anarchist. Yes, there will be government just not Western Liberal Democracy which has utterly failed. This whole idea of the state and culture protecting “rights” that others do not have is dead wrong.

            These issues are deeply rooted in the philosophy of Nietzsche and more contemporaneously by Richard Rorty. There are no such things as “rights” human or otherwise to be granted by god (There are no gods – there is lust for power.) or government or society. I urge you and others to consult Rorty on this subject. Nietzsche was right in “The Will to Power” all of us already have what we need to be free. So whatever the state does has nothing to do with “rights.”

          • Sam F
            June 21, 2018 at 12:56

            Western democracy itself does not seem to me to be the problem, but rather the corruption thereof, largely by economic power. Human rights in law simply acknowledge our equality, and that government serves no higher purpose than the equal protection of the interests of all. Very true that a government that ignores the rights of non-citizens does not respect those of citizens.

      • michael crockett
        June 22, 2018 at 00:43

        Well said Sam. I am in agreement. I was watching Lee Camps` interview with investigative journalist David Degraw on RT yesterday and had to subsequently check out the website where Degraw writes ( His article: War Profiteers vs The People of The United States knocked me right of my chair. I can not wrap my mind around 21 trillion tax dollars (possibly more) that has gone missing at the Pentagon. WTF!!!! Degraw is able to connect the dots and explain in the most profound way the catastrophe that is looming.

        • Sam F
          June 22, 2018 at 07:41

          I have heard of the Pentagon failing and refusing to account for expenditures, but have not found yet in these articles the means by which they could have spent more than they have been budgeted. If you know please advise.

          • michael crockett
            June 22, 2018 at 12:53

            Sam you make an excellent point. Greg Hunter at USA (you tube) interviews Dr. Mark Skidmore (economist at MSU). Skidmore states that he starts his investigation to prove or disprove work done by Catherine Austin-Fitz. She identifies $6.5 trillion in unsupported adjustments for the US Army. With the help of graduate students, Skidmore conducts research into the Pentagons’ budget from 1998-2015. He appears to find numerous unsupported adjustments and unsupported journal vouchers. He finds $21 trillion that is flowing in and flowing out, and most importantly, this money is not budgeted by Congress. He sites an example of $800 billion which is transferred from Treasury to the US Army. How can this be when the Army is allocated only $120 billion/yr? I have no formal training in finance, budget, or accounting. I hope I have captured the gist of this and not misstated too much in my explanation. Dr. Skidmore says computers not talking to each other might possibly explain some of this. He states that documents have been saved and are available if you want to review them. I hope you can find this interview and draw your own conclusions. At present I believe there is a team of 2400 auditors from the Office of Inspector General, the Government Accounting Office and DOD conducting an audit of the Pentagon. One question I have: Is it possible that this $21 trillion was created electronically by the Treasury on orders from the FED? Therefore not tax dollars just QE for the Empire. All you have to do is hit print. I am just spitballing here.

          • rosemerry
            June 22, 2018 at 16:44

            Remember that Donald(!)Rumsfeld found some huge number of billions missing on September 10, 2001, and was about to make big changes the next day!!!!

    • Joe Tedesky
      June 20, 2018 at 19:48

      There’s always chaos when you run out of ammunition.

    • robjira
      June 20, 2018 at 21:12

      I saw that bit of bias too; the author could’ve been more thorough in carrying through with his early allusuon to China’s recognizing persistent “containment” actions by the US. In that light, “aggressive provocations” in the South China Sea are actually contravallations brought on by 60 years of militarized, economic imperialism.
      You can count me as a sincere supporter of any form of “Calexit.”
      Great comment, Babyl-on.

  15. Tom Welsh
    June 20, 2018 at 16:24

    “Of course, the Chinese are hardly blameless in the escalating tensions in the region. They have continued to militarize South China Sea islands whose ownership is in dispute, despite a promise that Chinese President Xi Jinping made to President Obama in 2015 not to do so”.

    You obviously fail to understand the legendary Chinese courtesy. Noting the Western proverb “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, Mr Xi has clearly decided to deal with the Americans in their own style. As that includes never keeping a promise – no matter how solemnly given – the least he could do was to break his own promise to Washington.

    To do otherwise would have been oafishly discourteous.

  16. Unfettered Fire
    June 20, 2018 at 15:56

    I wondered if this was the real reason behind the North Korea peace agreement, to fortify its border along China with US armaments. China was one of the few nations that weren’t so affected by the 2008 global financial crash. Why? Because they haven’t allowed private banks to run their government they way the west has. The state retains the power to maintain a healthy public sector and they are on their way to greatly reducing poverty. The private banks have been on a drunken asset-buying spree for the past 40 years after granting themselves over $20 trillion in QE creation. Must be nice, huh? Now they’re closing in on China’s markets. Michael Hudson just came back from China and had this to say:

    The debts are owed to government banks. A government can do what the U.S. can’t do. The government can forgive debts, at least those that are owed to itself, without creating a political backlash. If a viable corporation has run up too much debt, the government can forgive it. This is better than letting the debt close down a factory or force it be sold to a predatory asset management firm as occurs in the United States.

    That is the advantage of having public credit and why credit should be public. That’s how it was in Babylonia. Rulers were able to cancel debts all the time in the 3rd millennium and 2nd millennium BC, because most debts were owed to the palace or the temples. Rulers were cancelling debts owed to themselves.

    China can cancel business debt owed to itself. It can proclaim a clean slate. It can minimize debt service to whatever it chooses. But imagine if Chase Manhattan and Goldman Sachs are let in. It would be much harder for the government to raise real estate taxes leading to defaults on the banks. It could save the occupants by making new loans to those who default – based on lower land prices.

    Well, you can imagine the international furor that would erupt. Trump would threaten to atom bomb Peking and Shanghai to save his constituency. His constituency and that of the Democrats are the same: Wall Street and the One Percent. So China may lose its ability to write down debts if it lets in foreign banks.”

    • Sam F
      June 20, 2018 at 19:18

      Yes, the US has lost its democracy to economic concentrations, and should switch to public credit, in addition to enacting amendments to restrict funding of elections and mass media to limited individual contributions. It could just as well declare itself the holder of all stocks, allowing their owners credits. That would end speculation, bubbles, finance corruption, corrupt use of funds, corrupt influence on or by corporations, and bribes. End of corruption problem.

  17. Dunderhead
    June 20, 2018 at 15:11

    What an extremely long-winded way to state we are still in the same status quo of justifying US imperialism though with a slightly different cast of allies, my it’s going to be entertaining watching this giant bureaucracy, i.e. the US military industrial complex,cut to the bone when the Chinese finally feel ready to put their foot down, counting the days,LOL

  18. vinnieoh
    June 20, 2018 at 14:18

    Read this yesterday on another site. Thank you for bringing it here for discussion. But, what is there to say except to agree that this little-noticed re-posturing is very ominous. Those who haven’t done so should read the 2000 document produced by The Project for the New American Century (PNAC) titled “Strategies for Rebuilding America’s Defenses.” Ah, the double-speak is mind crushing.

    That document has been the American playbook since the tenure of George W. Bush and this, the subject of Klare’s piece, was anticipated there if not fully delineated. Also note the new demand by our Dear Leader for the creation of an orbiting cadre of space warriors. That was also anticipated in that document.

  19. Bob Van Noy
    June 20, 2018 at 13:32

    Joe Lauria you mentioned that you wanted to expand the articles that Consortiumnews would publish and I can see it in this piece. I was totally unfamiliar with Michael T. Klare until I read this piece. I’ve ordered his DVD.
    Professor of Peace; love it…

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