Monday, 2 December 2013

China Upping the Ante, Are We Ready?

By: Danny Liew Shan Lee

(China's new ADIZ: Source: SCMP)

The 9 – Dotted Line, Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands, the Spratly, the ADIZ, and now the Liaoning, PLAN's first aircraft carrier.  The Dragon has awakened and it is asserting its claim over its historical territories. 

For China’s immediate neighbours, the growing strength of China’s military might is disconcerting.  The claim on Senkaku/Diaoyu chain of islands and the unilateral declaration of Air Defence Identification Zone (ADIZ) over the same area had rattled her neighbours, particularly South Korea and Japan, both of which has overlapping claims over the chain of islands.

But the biggest bombshell would be the launching of Liaoning’s sea trial in the seas of South China Sea, which China sees as her own playground.  The launch, declared earlier last week caused trepidation over the region as the exercise is being seen as potentially as an escalation of aggression in the hotly contested region.

Part One

In this article, we will examine the relationship between Malaysia and China.  How this relationship had been built from Day 1 till today.  We will examine also how China’s multiple unilateral actions and military build-up has led to slow erosion of our relationship.

We will also look into the current and near future order of battle of Malaysian forces, on how these could interdict Chinese hegemony in the region.

How does Malaysia fit in into the scenario?

Of all of China’s neighbours, Malaysia has a special and unique relationship with China.  Built since the 15th century, Malaysian government has on paper declared that China is not a threat to Malaysia. 
But the reality is stark different. 

Since Merdeka (Independence), by virtue of international power play, Malaysia has been in the forefront of anti-communism drive.  While the late Tun Abdul Razak managed to restore diplomatic relationship with China in the 70’s, the fact that China had been sheltering Chin Peng and his cohorts were not lost to most Malaysians.  Plus, early communist propaganda that declared that China’s People Liberation Army would come to ‘liberate the 24thprovince’ is still not forgotten.

While China’s relationship with Malaysia is getting warmer, the intrusion of China’s PLA – Navy to the James Shoal, 80km from Malaysian town of Bintulu in March this year is a testament that China will seriously contest its claim over the shoal despite its ties with Malaysia.

What can Malaysia do about it?

For a start, Malaysian government had been using diplomacy and economy as tools to deal with China.  However, it is understood while the government official stance is that China is no threat to Malaysian sovereignty, it does realize that there is potential of China forcefully asserting itself over Malaysia.
But that is only how much we are able to do to face them right now. 

Today, our NGPV are under-gunned.  With only a 76mm 62cal OTO Melara Rapid DP and Oto Melara / Mauser 30mm short-range gun, it is only a peashooter. 

Our LCS project is at best still not completed yet and most probably would be completed only by 2023.  Thus, in other words, we’re naked in the sea.

No modern day sea battle can be won without aerial supremacy.  With China’s Liaoning ready for sea trial, barring any undetected structural weaknesses, China will be able to bring the aerial battle closer to our shores, and also those of our other neighbours'.

While our RMAF do have anti-ship missiles, a recent check on PLA – Navy fleet air defence capabilities suggest that they have sufficient air defence and counter-measures.

While the purchase of the 2 Scorpene class submarines had been mired with controversy from Day 1, the 2 submarine had been instrumental for the defence of our waters in South China Sea.  One of the reasons that were bandied around on why the PLA – Navy did not fully assert their supremacy over the lone RMN NGPV that was sent to chase the fleet away from James Shoal was that the Chinese fleet was unsure if the submarines were not in the area of operation.  Thus, the fleet commander was not willing to risk a torpedo sinking their ships.

The future seems to be a scary place for us Malaysians.

Part Two

If we can’t beat them, we join them.  The next part of the article will explore the possibility of being in an alliance with China.  Would this ensure our sovereignty?  Or would this just make us a vassal state?

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