- - Thursday, July 3, 2014

Chinese naval contingency at ‘Tiger’s Lair’ in Hawaii

For the first time in its 43-year history, the world’s largest multinational naval exercise, Rim of the Pacific exercise, or RIMPAC, hosted by the U.S. Navy on a biennial basis, has invited the Chinese navy to participate. And China is taking the unique opportunity seriously but with mixed feelings.

Chinese state media is having a field day with propaganda promoting China’s participation as yet another great achievement of the Communist Party.

“The U.S. military first looked down upon the PLA; then it became vigilant against us; now it is forced to invite us to participate in regional drills,” the newspaper Global Times said. “This is all because our navy has become very strong, very quickly in recent years, which the U.S. military cannot afford to ignore.”

Vigilance against the United State also remains high. “By taking part in RIMPAC, the Chinese Navy enters the tiger’s lair,” screamed the headline on the party organ, Global Times.

And China does not want to show up just like any of the other 22 nations taking part in this year’s RIMPAC exercise. In fact, China dispatched the largest naval contingent other than the host nation.

More than 1,100 Chinese naval personnel aboard four vessels currently are taking part in various aspects of the naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii.

But Beijing’s real utility for taking take part in the multinational maritime drill is also evident.

Extremely isolated, virtually without any friend or ally, China is widely regarded as a destabilizing source in the Asia-Pacific region for its uncompromising and expansive maritime claims against nearly all its maritime neighbors. Under such circumstances, China regards the unprecedented invitation from the United States to join RIMPAC 2014 as a victory for Beijing in international diplomacy and public relations.

And for the Chinese sailors and officers in Hawaii, Communist Party affairs must take priority, even during the RIMPAC drill.

On June 29, with the U.S. naval facilities in the background, the commissar onboard the lead People’s Liberation Army navy vessel, the guided missile destroyer Haikou, conducted an induction ceremony for the new Communist Party members, while all party members on the ship swore their absolute loyalty to the red, hammer-and-sickle adorned party flag that flew in the gentle tropical breeze off the coast of Hawaii.

Still, old habits die hard for China. It sees the RIMPAC initiation as yet another U.S. conspiracy against China’s rise.

The Global Times, a subsidiary of the Communist Party mouthpiece the People’s Daily, reasoned that in the 2012 iteration of RIMPAC the United States invited Russia, but not China, to the drills in order to isolate China and to “play Russia against China.” This time, however, Russia has run afoul of the United States over the Ukraine gambit, prompting the newspaper to state, “the US is trying to play the same old trick again [by inviting China, but not Russia] for the sole purpose of driving a wedge between China and Russia.”

Not only that, Global Times believes the United States has deliberately invited the other 22 nations’ naval forces to Hawaii “in order to intimidate our [Chinese] military.”

PLA sets up cyber intelligence analysis center

On June 26, China’s state media including the Communist Party’s mouthpiece, the People’s Daily, announced that the People’s Liberation Army’s General Armament Department has opened a new cyber espionage and intelligence analysis center called Research Center for the Cyberspace Strategic Intelligence.

Billed as a PLA’s “high level intelligence platform” to collect and analyze intelligence from cyberspace, the center will focus on centralizing cyber intelligence, coordinate cyber intelligence gathering, developing and studying cyber espionage sources and methods.

Last month, the Justice Department indicted five PLA hackers for penetrating American cyber networks to steal trade secrets for the benefit Chinese companies.

On June 25, the new U.S. ambassador to China, former Sen. Max Baucus, blasted China for its continuing and intensifying cyber espionage and theft against the United States.

“We wouldn’t sit idly by while a crime is committed in the real world, so why should we do it when it happens in cyberspace?” Mr. Baucus said.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached a mmilesyu@gmail.com and on Twitter @Yu_Miles.

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