Concerning Cartoons and the Chinese Military

BY Herschel Smith
4 years ago

I was watching cartoons over the weekend (don’t ask me the context, please), and spent a couple of minutes on one very special one about the bears and foxes.

Kai-lan and her friends are playing in the backyard when they get a visit from their superhero friend, the Monkey King, who really needs their help! There’s trouble in a kingdom far away–the foxes and bears who live there won’t talk to each other and there’s only one person who can help them become friends–Kai-lan! Kai-lan and her friends set off on a magical adventure with the Monkey King to help the Fox King and Bear Queen (voiced by Lucy Liu) work out their differences.

As it turns out, the bears danced and shook the ground, while the foxes sang and polluted the environment with noise.  All they really needed was to talk to each other.  The solution to their differences was for the bears to dance while the foxes sang, and they were both happy!

It was all very sweet – for a two or three year old.

In our very own, real life version of the bears and foxes, Secretary Gates must figure that we just need to communicate better with the Chinese military.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met his Chinese counterpart, Liang Guanglie, in Vietnam on Monday for the first time since the two militaries suspended talks with each other last winter, calling for the two countries to prevent “mistrust, miscalculations and mistakes.”

His message seemed directed mainly at officers like Lt. Cmdr. Tony Cao of the Chinese Navy.

Days before Mr. Gates arrived in Asia, Commander Cao was aboard a frigate in the Yellow Sea, conducting China’s first war games with the Australian Navy, exercises to which, he noted pointedly, the Americans were not invited.

Nor are they likely to be, he told Australian journalists in slightly bent English, until “the United States stops selling the weapons to Taiwan and stopping spying us with the air or the surface.”

The Pentagon is worried that its increasingly tense relationship with the Chinese military owes itself in part to the rising leaders of Commander Cao’s generation, who, much more than the country’s military elders, view the United States as the enemy. Older Chinese officers remember a time, before the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 set relations back, when American and Chinese forces made common cause against the Soviet Union.

The younger officers have known only an anti-American ideology, which casts the United States as bent on thwarting China’s rise.

“All militaries need a straw man, a perceived enemy, for solidarity,” said Huang Jing, a scholar of China’s military and leadership at the National University of Singapore. “And as a young officer or soldier, you always take the strongest of straw men to maximize the effect. Chinese military men, from the soldiers and platoon captains all the way up to the army commanders, were always taught that America would be their enemy.”

The stakes have increased as China’s armed forces, once a fairly ragtag group, have become more capable and have taken on bigger tasks. The navy, the centerpiece of China’s military expansion, has added dozens of surface ships and submarines, and is widely reported to be building its first aircraft carrier. Last month’s Yellow Sea maneuvers with the Australian Navy are but the most recent in a series of Chinese military excursions to places as diverse as New Zealand, Britain and Spain.

China is also reported to be building an antiship ballistic missile base in southern China’s Guangdong Province, with missiles capable of reaching the Philippines and Vietnam. The base is regarded as an effort to enforce China’s territorial claims to vast areas of the South China Sea claimed by other nations, and to confront American aircraft carriers that now patrol the area unmolested.

Even improved Chinese forces do not have capacity or, analysts say, the intention, to fight a more able United States military. But their increasing range and ability, and the certainty that they will only become stronger, have prompted China to assert itself regionally and challenge American dominance in the Pacific.

That makes it crucial to help lower-level Chinese officers become more familiar with the Americans, experts say, before a chance encounter blossoms into a crisis.

It’s almost as if the Chinese military is already studying cyber exploitation within the context of offensive operations; it’s almost as if they already practice it; it’s almost as if the Chinese military has been trained up in the art of unrestricted warfare; it’s almost as if, in a different time, the recent Chinese saber-rattling in the South Pacific would have caused Japan to seek stronger military ties with the U.S. Oh, wait.  They have already done that.

Perhaps Japan needs to watch the cartoon about the bears and foxes.  Then we could all understand everyone’s point of view and get along.




You are currently reading "Concerning Cartoons and the Chinese Military", entry #5603 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) China,Japan and was published October 11th, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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