Monday, February 13, 2023

Sticks, Lasers, and Balloons

While it can be frustrating when "our friends" can be a tad difficult, but in adult friendships when people have independence you have to expect friends to have disagreements with you now and then, have other priorities, or are just one of those "challenging friends" that is a pain in the tail but when important things come up that count, they are there more often than not.

Nations can be like people.

While some nations are easy friends, there are nations who no one really likes. Sure, nations will do business with them and do their best  to go along to get along. Even jerks have money and resources, so you do what you need to do, but as they seem more interested in taking your business than working with your business, you keep them at a respectful distance; keep one hand on your wallet while you shake hands with them using the other ... you know the type.

They are a lot like the insecure middle school bully. They have some people who hang out with them, but they are usually equally odious individuals or are just hoping that if they help the bully, the bully will leave them alone. They aren't real friends.

I've always looked at the People's Republic of China in that light, and I don't think they are mellowing with age.

It isn't that they seem to be spoiling for a fight - perhaps they are - but this just seems like they don't know any other way to interact with nations that don't immediately align themselves with Beijing - or worse, are seen as a competitor.

Yes, the USA and Canada had our Balloons of February, but in the last year or so, what has China been doing to seem like a pleasant alternative to the United States to the rest of the world?

Her largest neighbor? They get sticks:

The root cause is an ill-defined, 3,440km (2,100-mile)-long disputed border.

Rivers, lakes and snowcaps along the frontier mean the line can shift, bringing soldiers face to face at many points, sparking a confrontation.

The two nations are also competing to build infrastructure along the border, which is also known as the Line of Actual Control. India's construction of a new road to a high-altitude air base is seen as one of the main triggers for a deadly 2020 clash with Chinese troops.

How bad is the situation?

Despite military-level talks, tensions continue. In December 2022 troops clashed for the first time in more than a year.

It happened near the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh state, the eastern tip of India. Some soldiers suffered minor injuries.

De-escalation work has taken place since a major clash in June 2020. The Galwan Valley battle - fought with sticks and clubs, not guns - was the first fatal confrontation between the two sides since 1975.

At least 20 Indian and four Chinese soldiers died.

Another face-off in January 2021 left troops on both sides injured. It took place near India's Sikkim state, between Bhutan and Nepal. 

The "I" and "C" in the B.R.I.C. are not going to be close friends, ever - one of the reasons I roll my eyes at those who propose the BRIC nations as some kind of power block - something only slightly sillier than the Cold War "Non Aligned Movement."

With the "B" being the basket case Brazil (always the nation of the future, and always will be), and the "R" being Russia, I mean, child please.

Another nation that if the PRC was just slightly more subtle and less arrogant they might have a chance to make things more difficult for the USA-Japan-Australia defense concerns is The Philippines. They had a window in the last couple of decades, but ... if they're doing this;

The PRC Wolf Warrior Lack of Charm Campaign perhaps may play well internally - and that may be all they care about - but there was a window not long ago that the PRC was playing smart on the world stage - making significant impact in Australia and having the USA happy to let them set up Confucius Institutes at our major universities, etc ... but the last decade or so they somehow decided to play a different game.

Bad move for them from my point of view if they wanted to leverage soft power - but a good move from the point of view of those who desire to keep the PRC contained until they age-out in the next decade.

So, PRC ... keep doing what you're doing.

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