HONOLULU, September 9, 2012 ― This week will mark eleven years since the attacks on 9/11. But after a decade of the Global War on Terrorism, America’s policymakers are beginning to look towards the Pacific as the next center of gravity for defense and foreign policy. Irrespective of who wins in November, the United States is set to significantly bulk up its naval forces and joint bases in the Pacific as a counterbalance to what is seen as the rise of the People’s Republic of China.
Over the last twenty-five years, China has undergone a military transformation, with its leaders pursuing the capability to fight “local wars under conditions of informatization” – that is, conflicts with potential high-tech adversaries such as the United States. Increasingly looking towards anti-satellite warfare capability and air and sea area denial weaponry, many U.S. policy experts are beginning to view China with deepening concern.
At present, China has a military budget equivalent to $106 billion and has an estimated strategic force of between 50 to 75 land based intercontinental ballistic missiles and 3 ballistic missile submarines with as many as 12 missiles each. The People’s Liberation Army Air Force has some 2,120 operational combat aircraft - 490 of which are within range of Taiwan.
With the Hawaiian Islands strategically located both in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and at the center of America’s developing defense policy, I wanted to get a local perspective on how the 50th state views the developing arms race, so I sought out Republican candidate Tiffany Au who I had interviewed earlier.
Running for state representative in Hawaii’s District 26 (Downtown Honolulu, Kaka’ako, Ward, Mcully) Au, whose own parents were postwar Vietnamese boat refugees, has an especially unique take on Pacific and Asian affairs and the impact of warfare on populations.
Danny de Gracia: A lot of concerning developments are occurring right now in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly involving the People’s Republic of China. Earlier this year, the Defense Department presented a report to Congress in which it was stated that the Chinese are taking this time to invest in bulking up their military with stealth fighters, cruise missiles, counterspace weapons and “are increasingly looking to the [People’s Liberation Army] to perform missions that go beyond China’s immediate territorial concerns.”
For the last eleven years the United States has been fighting a war structured on fighting terrorists, now America has to worry about the rise of China even as our own fiscal woes are forcing deep cuts in our own military. What are your thoughts about the “rise of the Dragon” that we’re seeing right now?
Tiffany Au: The United States is still the economic powerhouse of the world. Despite our faltering economy, China is beginning to feel the growing pains of its own success. Manufacturing there is quickly becoming more expensive and they are now outsourcing to India because it is cheaper than in China. With regard to their military buildup, China lacks the technological prowess necessary to overtake America. Case in point, China’s new stealth fighter is a poor replica of an F-22 Raptor.
DDG: Do you think that the United States has the right military and foreign policy towards China?
Au: It’s a delicate balance. Economically, we need China and China needs us, but China wants to establish itself as a world power. There may come a time when we need to rethink current policy.
DDG: Do you think that China may overtake the United States as the world’s superpower?
Au: Never. Given our history, the United States would never allow itself to become subservient to anyone or any nation.
DDG: What do you think about the security relationship between the United States and Japan? Do you think that China’s military buildup may enable them in the future to put political pressure on Japan that the United States may not be able to offset?
Au: No. Historically, China and Japan have always been enemies due to the Massacre of Nanking and other atrocities.
DDG: What do you think about America’s relationship with Taiwan?
Au: Delicate balance. Taiwan’s independence from China today is a mirror image of America’s independence from Britain 237 years ago.
DDG: What are your thoughts about North Korea and their new leader, Kim Jung-un?
Au: It’s too early to tell.
DDG: Russia is also modernizing its military and set to spend billions in purchasing thousands of new combat aircraft over the next eight years. Between Russia and China’s buildup, do you think that the United States is in a pickle militarily looking towards the year 2020?
Au: Presently, Russia’s military is a mere shadow of its former self. Their naval fleet is rusting away and obsolete. They sold their ships to China, India and anyone who wants them. Their air force needs a major overhaul; they have fourth generation fighters and the United States is developing fifth generation fighters.
DDG: Russia has repeatedly threatened that if the United States goes forward with the proposed anti-ballistic missile shield in Eastern Europe, Russia may pre-emptively attack to take the U.S. missile sites offline. A lot of people are shouting on both sides of this issue to go forward or not go forward with a missile shield. What are your thoughts?
Au: One word. M.A.D. – mutually assured destruction.
DDG: Let’s talk a little bit about the Middle East and Southwest Central Asia for a moment. What do you think about all the rumors of war and election year punditry over Iran and Syria?
Au: There’s always an “election year punditry.”
DDG: Do you think that war is inevitable with Iran?
Au: I fear that Iran’s ideology will lead us to war.
DDG: President Obama has put a lot of pressure on Syria, yet the Russians have a major naval base at Tartus. What do you think we should do regarding Syria?
Au: Syria is a sovereign nation and it is not the United States’ place to influence its outcome.
DDG: Last but not least, what do you think is the most important foreign policy matter that needs to be addressed this election year?
Au: The most important foreign policy matter is Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and Israel’s impatience with waiting for the U.S. to do something about it.
We appreciate Ms. Au for the opportunity to interview her.
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