Thursday, 5 December 2013

China Upping the Ante – Are We Ready? Part 2

By Danny Liew Shan Lee

(China and Malaysia. Source: Wikimedia)

In Part 1, we examined the precarious situation that we are or will be in in the near future.  Like it or not, we would not be able to deny access to China to our territorial waters.  Their military might makes us a small pushover for them. 

So does it mean, if we can’t beat them, we join them?

Malaysia – China Military Alliance: A Possibility?

Apparently so, says some local defence watchers.  They pointed out that PLA – Navy went to James Shoal to conduct exercise as part of a secret agreement between Malaysia and China that in the event of Malaysia facing threat, PLA – Navy would help to defend our sovereignty.  These same group of people also claimed that the Lahad Datu crisis in Sabah were engineered by CIA as part of their regime change process.

Thus is claimed that by having the PLA – Navy in our territorial waters, China is said to be giving us moral and physical support.

This was further fuelled by the visit of our Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein to China, where he had declared in the presence of his Chinese counterpart, Mr Chang Wanquan that the purpose of the visit is to strengthen military ties between both nations. 

It was also during this visit, his first to China on official capacity, that the inaugural Malaysia – China joint military exercise was announced to be held in 2014 (The Star, 30th October 2013, Malaysia and China plan war games).

Defogging the Fog of War

Most people understood little the reasons why nations go all the way out to plan for bilateral military exercise.  Even soldiers that carry the exercise may not understand the politics behind the scene to get them where they are for the exercise.

They mostly understood that military exercises are held by countries that have good relationship or are allies.  It is not just to allow soldiers of different nations to be able to work together in the battlefield.

But those are not the only reasons for joint military exercise are to be held. 

Joint military exercises are also held between nations that potentially will fight wars against each other. 

China – Russia War Games

In 1969, China and Russia was embroiled in a border conflict in the vicinity of Zhenbao Island, located along the Ussuri River.  The 7-month long conflict was only resolved in nineties.

China – India War Games

Perhaps, a better example would be China – India war games.  The Hand-in-Hand War Games, first held in Kunming in 2007, was held for the fifth time in Chengdu Province, China from November 6.

This was despite that in 1962; both nations were embroiled in a border conflict known as Sino – Indian Border Conflict. 

Even as recent as August this year, Indian troops had recorded multiple incidents of Chinese troops trespassing into her territory, with one incident of Chinese and Indian soldiers jostling against each other, being recorded on video and shared via social media (The Hindu, 24th August 2013, India, China to resume war game).

Confidence Building Measure (CBM)

When two parties are at potential loggerhead against each other, joint military exercise are used to give indirect assurance to both parties that they meant no harm to each other.  The term, which originated from the Cold War era and is also known as Confidence and Security Building Measure, helps give the soldiers a human face of their potential enemies. 

While letting your potential enemy know your military strength is frowned upon, it is also an indirect show of strength that allow both forces to appreciate the capabilities of their counterparts.

Malaysia and CBM

The term CBM was also bandied around in Malaysia in the mid-90’s to the late 90’s.  Due to political animosity between then Malaysia’s Prime Minister Tun Mahathir Mohamad and Singapore’s then Mentor Minister, Lee Kuan Yew and several other issues, temperature between both nations had heated up significantly. 

Understanding that a war between both countries would be destructive and disruptive, military leadership began to promote further relationship for both nations as part of the CBM to help to cool down the heat.

As such, Malaysia’s move to have joint military exercise with China can be seen as a step leading to confidence building for both nations.  This is seems more likely than the notion that Malaysia is officially being adopted as China’s little brother.

Part 3

We have FPDA! 
Why do we need to be scared? 
Some might cry out. 

In Part 3 of this series, we will look into history of FPDA and Malaysia.  Would it be sufficient for us to rely on this military agreement?  Or is it a lame agreement?

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