Continuity of Agenda: US Encirclement of China Continues Under Trump
0 comments | by Ulson Gunnar
The United States has pursued a decades-long policy of encircling, containing and if possible, undermining China as part of a larger strategy of achieving and maintaining what US policy papers call “primacy” over Asia.
US policy has led to deeply-rooted networks operating within China’s borders and along China’s geopolitical peripheries to divide and destabilize the immense and increasingly powerful Asian state. These networks are funded and supported regardless of who occupies the White House. While the rhetoric shifts from president to president regarding “why” the US is providing so-called “activists” and “opposition” fronts aid, the aid and the agenda it serves continues.
Under current US President Donald Trump’s predecessor President Barack Obama, this ongoing policy was marketed to the American and international public as the “Pivot to Asia.” It was spun as a means for the US to reengage with Asia but in reality constituted an overt attempt to co-opt the governments of China’s neighbors and break up the region’s growing ties with Beijing.
Obama’s “Pivot” was a failure, but one within the greater context of a general decline in US primacy both in the Asia Pacific region and around the world. Under Trump, this policy of encircling and containing China continues. It is now marketed to the public as an “Indo-Pacific” strategy, with the US forced to court India, Australia and Japan on the fringes of Asia Pacific after failing to make progress within Asia Pacific itself. It is important to understand just how long-term these polices are so that when Trump announces them to the public, the public understands that it is not “Trump’s” policy, but simply Trump continuing to carry out the agenda of the very special interests (the so-called “Deep State”) he vowed to resist upon taking office. Understanding that these policies serve special interests and at the cost of the American public helps inoculate the public to rhetoric claiming that confronting China and destabilizing Asia is somehow part of “making America great again.”
Tibet is one of the oldest and most clear-cut examples of a political controversy used by Washington to target and undermine Beijing’s credibility. The centerpiece of US strategy in Tibet has been an independence movement led by the Dali Lama, the so-called spiritual leader of Tibet and a political figure the US through the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has backed both politically and militarily since at least as early as the 1950s. Upon the US State Department’s own website under a section titled, “Foreign Relations of the United States, 1964-1968, Volume XXX, China: 341. Memorandum for the 303 Committee,” it is admitted that:
The CIA Tibetan program, parts of which were initiated in 1956 with the cognizance of the Committee, is based on U.S. Government commitments made to the Dalai Lama in 1951 and 1956. The program consists of political action, propaganda, paramilitary and intelligence operations, appropriately coordinated with and supported by [less than 1 line of source text not declassified].
The report also states that:
In the political action and propaganda field, Tibetan program objectives are aimed toward lessening the influence and capabilities of the Chinese regime through support, among Tibetans and among foreign nations, of the concept of an autonomous Tibet under the leadership of the Dalai Lama; toward the creation of a capability for resistance against possible political developments inside Tibet; and the containment of Chinese Communist expansion—in pursuance of U.S. policy objectives stated initially in NSC 5913/1.2 [6 lines of source text not declassified]. It should be noted that the document specifically mentions “the containment of Chinese Communist expansion.”
The policy of creating “autonomous” regions within a sovereign state aimed at “lessening the influence and capabilities” of a targeted central government is a policy that should look familiar to any impartial observer of contemporary US foreign policy. It is not only precisely the same policy the US openly pursues in the occupation and attempted partitioning of the Syrian Arab Republic, but it is also the very same policy the US is pursuing in another region of China, its western Xinjiang province.
Separatist Terrorism in Xinjiang
China’s western province of Xinjiang is home to some 21 million people. Of those 21 million, less than half are of the Turkic ethnic group known as Uyghurs. Practitioners of Islam, the US has used terrorist networks developed within NATO member Turkey to infiltrate, pervert and radicalize a fringe minority of the Uyghur community while the US itself openly funds and promotes separatism via political opposition fronts and across local and international media. Turkey’s notorious “Grey Wolves” terrorist organization was wielded by NATO during the Cold War as a tool of political coercion. It is still used today by US-NATO interests both within Turkey and beyond, even as far as Southeast Asia. The Grey Wolves have been implicated in training and arming terrorist cells within Xinjiang. Overt US support for separatists in Xinjiang can be easily found on the US State Department-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) website. The US is so extensively engaged in political subversion within China that it was necessary to divide its funding of subversive activities into multiple categories: China (Hong Kong), China (Mainland), China (Tibet) and China (Xinjiang/East Turkistan).
US support for separatism is exposed forthright with the inclusion of the term “East Turkistan,” it being the name of the political entity US-backed agitators and militants seek to carve off from Chinese territory. Over a quarter of a million US taxpayer dollars is allotted annually to the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), a Germany-based front with offices in Washington DC headed by Rebiya Kadeer who openly pursues separatism and who also refers to China’s Xinjiang province as “East Turkistan.”
The US in its various policy papers regarding regime change elsewhere around the world has repeatedly admitted that “peaceful” movements like the WUC attempts to portray itself as are unlikely to succeed without an armed component to prevent a targeted government from simply uprooting foreign-funded sedition. Thus, just as the US State Department admitted it has done in Tibet, the US is clearly engaged via NATO-proxies and separatist political fronts it openly funds and directs, in efforts to “lessen the influence and capabilities” of Beijing in Xinjiang by attempting to create the “autonomous” region of “East Turkistan.”
Demonstrations in Hong Kong
Hong Kong was taken by the British Empire from China by force and occupied for over a century. When the British finally departed Hong Kong in 1997, it imposed upon Beijing demands instituting what is known as the “one country, two systems” under the Sino-British Joint Declaration. In essence, the British attempted to maintain Hong Kong as a political and economic foothold despite “returning” it to Beijing’s control. Beijing has since incrementally dismantled this arrangement and has steadily reasserted its sovereignty over its returned territory.
To counter this, the US and its European allies have organized, funded and directed “pro-democracy” protests in Hong Kong who focus primarily on coercing Beijing to uphold the UK’s parting demands. The so-called “Umbrella Revolution” in 2014 was a textbook example of what is now widely known as a “color revolution.” The protests consisted of leaders openly funded by the US State Department including Martin Lee who had literally visited Washington DC (NED event including full video here) pleading for aid just months before the protests unfolded. Another political figure crafted by America’s immense media influence is Joshua Wong, a university student who repeatedly denied his sudden fame and political influence stemmed from ties with Washington, but who eagerly traveled to Washington DC to collect an award from NED subsidiary, Freedom House, upon the protests’ conclusion.
The “pro-democracy” protests in Hong Kong, when put into context of Washington’s long-term strategy to contain and encircle China, are transparently illegitimate. While figures like Wong insist they are pursuing “democracy” and “self-determination” for Hong Kong, with their movement entirely propped up by the United States and its European allies it is clear that they represent foreign interests, specifically at the expense of any notion of “democracy” or “self-determination” for Hong Kong.
Destabilizing Southeast Asia
It is clear enough that China is being systematically targeted and undermined within its own borders by US foreign policy stretching from the end of World War II and continuing to present day. However, just as important, are US efforts to encircle, contain and undermine China along its peripheries. This includes Southeast Asia where the US has spent decades attempting to influence and control the region. This included the outright invasion of Vietnam, proxies wars fought in neighboring Laos and Cambodia and political upheaval the US has sponsored everywhere from Myanmar to Malaysia and Thailand to Indonesia. During the administration of US President George Bush Jr., the US had lined up proxy regimes in Thailand under Thaksin Shinawatra, Malaysia under Anwar Ibrahim and Myanmar under Aung San Suu Kyi. To a lesser extent, Cambodia under Hun Sen served US interests until only recently.
However, of these four nations, only Myanmar represents a partial success. Thailand has ousted Shinawatra and his proxies from power, Anwar Ibrahim resides in prison and Cambodia has increasingly built ties with Beijing at Washington’s expense. Still, US-funded networks seek to impede Southeast Asian ties with China through a variety of activities including political destabilization and terrorism. The US also funds organizations posing as environmental and human right activists that impede regional development driven by Chinese infrastructure projects under the guise of protecting the environment and the livelihoods of villagers living near the future sites of rail, dam and other major projects.
In any given nation across Southeast Asia, the US NED along with its various subsidiaries and partners can be found fueling social division, conflict and even attempting to impede security operations against suspiciously convenient terrorism. More recently, the US under Trump has increased subversive activities in Thailand and Cambodia as both nations move to further uproot US-backed opposition groups. Upon a map, if China finds itself facing US-backed subversion along the west in Tibet, Xinjiang and its short border with US-occupied Afghanistan and to the east with US troops literally stationed in Korea and Japan, then US subversion in Southeast Asia represents a third front of adversity fueled by Washington and one that now continues under Trump’s “Indo-Pacific” strategy.
Afghanistan and the Korean Peninsula
Of course, there are multiple theories to explain Washington’s perpetual occupation of Afghanistan including its proximity to Pakistan, Russia and Iran. But Afghanistan also shares a short border with China. A US military presence on China’s far western border helps bookend America’s substantial military presence in Korea, Japan and the Philippines to China’s far east.
The US continues occupying South Korea following an armistice signed in 1953 marking the effective end of the Korean War. The US has since intentionally and continuously provoked North Korea, creating a strategy of tension and thus perpetually justifying its military presence on the peninsula. The US has openly and repeatedly called for regime change in North Korea. It has published entire policy papers detailing strategies for the invasion, occupation and subjugation of North Korea.
And while the US insists its presence on the Korean Peninsula is a matter of global peace and security, it is transparently obvious that it remains involved in and in fact fueling the conflict for the sole purpose of maintaining a military presence toward China’s east as part of its wider, long-term containment policy.
After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the island nation adopted a pacifist foreign policy. It had refused to involve itself in foreign interventions and maintained what it termed Self-Defense Forces. Its constitution prohibits its rearmament and the use of warfare to resolve disputes. The constitution states specifically:
1. Aspiring sincerely to an international peace based on justice and order, the Japanese people forever renounce war as a sovereign right of the nation and the threat or use of force as a means of settling international disputes.
2. In order to accomplish the aim of the preceding paragraph, land, sea and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained. The right of belligerency of the state will not be recognized.
Yet, now as the US finds its influence in Asia Pacific waning, there have been attempts to pressure the Japanese government to amend its constitution and help augment US military aggression across the region.
Far from a conspiracy theory, prominent Western policy analysts openly acknowledge this in their coverage of Japan’s defense policy. Defense News in a 2015 article titled, “Japan Pursues Rearmament, Despite Opposition,” would report that: Efforts by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to normalize Japan’s security posture and bolster its US alliance against China hit an obstacle when the Lower House Commission on the Constitution declared Abe’s moves unconstitutional. Still, Japan is expected to pass legislation around August to expand the nation’s ability to better support the US in the defense of Japan.
In a minor bombshell, on June 4, Setsu Kobayashi, professor emeritus of Constitutional Law at Keio University and member of the Lower House Commission on the Constitution, said provisions allowing limited rights of collective self defense as promoted by the Abe administration are unconstitutional. “Paragraph 2 of Article 9 does not grant any legal standing for military activities abroad,” Kobayashi is reported to have said. “Going to war abroad to help a friendly nation is a violation of Article 9,” he said.
Japan possesses the ability to more than adequately defend itself from any aggressor, including China. Furthermore, if free of Washington’s coercive influence bending Tokyo toward confrontation with Beijing, China and Japan could forge economic and defense pacts of their own that would make possible confrontations even more remote than they already are.
US “ties” to Asian states including Japan represent a rather transparent effort to augment US primacy, offering little incentive to those being used. Japan, in other words, is viewed as an expendable buffer between US hegemonic ambitions and the states it is targeting to achieve that hegemony. Japan would then be first to pay the price for Washington’s geopolitical miscalculations vis-à-vis Beijing.
That these policies have been pursued for decades, indifferent to the White House’s occupants helps shed light on those special interests that truly drive US policy and use political theater like that provided by the current Trump administration as cover to continue doing so with impunity. In the past when the US held uncontested global hegemony, both after World War II and again shortly after the Cold War, America paid few direct consequences for its actions abroad.Today, however, as US hegemony wanes and a multipolar balance of global power emerges, the US will increasingly pay a price for its attempts to cling to its unipolar “international order.” It is a price that the American people will pay economically and in terms of blood of their armed forces, a price that American special interests will continue shifting onto the American people themselves for as long as possible.Trump’s campaign mantra of “make America great again” echoes hallow in the face of this reality, exemplified in Asia in terms of US policy versus Beijing, but a reality that is repeated across the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and beyond. As long as Trump continues pursuing policies put forth by unelected special interests at the cost of those who voted him into office, America’s position internationally will continue to fold and as more resources are poured into futile efforts to reverse this otherwise irreversible trend, America will never be “great” again.
Ulson Gunnar is a New York-based geopolitical analyst and writer especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.