American politicians running for office love to bash China and its ‘aggressive military build-up’. There are a few problems with the charge. China’s military budget is a fraction of the US, and China has no military bases outside China. The latter may change soon.
China wants to open its first base abroad in one of Pakistan’s frontier areas to counter Al-Queda-supported Chinese rebels who want to create a Muslim state in Xinjiang Province. Terrorists have been operating in the province for a decade, and bomb attacks at the end of July killed eighteen people. This upped the ante for the Chinese leading to several delegations of Pakistani officials meeting with counterparts in Beijing and vice versa.
Although Pakistan has asked China to build a Navy Port at Gwadar, China specifically denies any intention of doing so. Such a base could be threatening to India. According to China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, China is interested only in protecting its ‘core interests’ which he described:
The core interests include anything related to sovereignty, stability and form of government. China is now pursuing socialism. If there is any attempt to reject this path, it will touch upon China’s core interests. Or, if there is any attempt to encourage any part of China to secede, that also touches upon China’s core interests related to our land, sea or air. Then, anything that is related to China’s national economic and social development also touches upon China’s core interests.
China shares borders (some disputed) with Pakistan and Kashmir. Any Chinese incursions into or presence in Pakistan greatly threatens India.
The Obama Administration recently publicly ‘pivoted’ from concentration on the Middle East to a new focus on East Asia. On his recent trip to the region, Defense Secretary Panetta assured Japan, South Korea and other American allies in the region that the US has no intention of cutting back on its committment to the region, including its 85,000 troops in South Korea and Japan. Panetta said the US position in East Asia will not erode because of budget cuts intended to decrease the US deficit.
Good luck with that. If the deficit committee established by Congress fails to come up with over $1.4 trillion soon, automatic cuts will go into effect. Again, the whole world is watchin.