Saturday, 11 June 2011

Hello Time Bomb

Matthew Good—whose Underdogs and Beautiful Midnight albums served as the soundtrack to the teenage years of suburban Toronto youth who spent the late-90s shoulder-tapping outside The Beer Store and shotgunning beer in dorm bathrooms—oddly enough popped back onto the radar this week in an unexpected way.

Borrowing from The Atlantic Wire:
China is at work on its first aircraft carrier which, Canadian musician and Guardian contributor Matthew Good notes, "has some defence analysts concerned, but they'd be the sort that view any alteration in the current global status quo discomforting." Not only is "a single U.S. carrier strike group, at present, the most powerful military asset in the world," but we have 11 of them. That's "two more active carriers than the rest of the world combined." The power a single one of these holds, Good explains, "could--if fully unleashed--devastate most nations on earth." Still, he acknowledges, the Chinese do have at least one sub "capable of launching nuclear weapons" and suspected to be working on two more. But this artillery hardly holds a candle to the U.S.'s "288 nuclear warheads per boat, each possessing a maximum yield of 475 kilotonnes." Good muses, "What an amazing technological age we live in. We can't feed the world, but by God we can blow it up."
What struck me first, judging from his picture byline, was that I'm not the only one who's put on a few pounds since the summer of '99.  Sipping wine would come later in life, but in retrospect many of us ought to have at least been chugging lite beer while Mr. Good's rock anthems cranked from the five-disc CD stereo.

But on to the substance of the article which, if nothing else, is very informative.  It's full of dry facts about how both China and the U.S. can destroy the world a couple times over.  Apparently a deft touch in songwriting doesn't necessarily translate to op-ed pieces (and, yes, the fact that this is being written for a personal, unpaid blog does not go unnoticed, but, seriously, the man could write a tune).

Good appears confounded by concerns over China's naval development, when, in his view, we should actually be worried about America's already formidable forces and how the resources to build and maintain such deadly arsenals could be put to more humanitarian purposes.

In my younger days, Good could do no wrong in my eyes.  But, today, I must disagree with the erstwhile Canadian rocker.

China's rise is indeed inevitable.  On track to be the world's largest economy it's understandable that, in an age of Somali pirates and other rogue actors with out-sized abilities, China's national security interests would extend in lockstep with it's economic reach around the world.  The Middle Kingdom must protect the trade routes and supply of raw material that have become absolutely vital to the Politburo as it seeks to maintain social harmony at home.

The concern of defense analysts, however, stems from the opaque nature of the People's Liberation Army (PLA).  Even to the closest Asia-watchers, it remains unclear if China intends for its ascension to be one of benevolent and enlightened self-interest or aggressive and rancorous nationalism.  Just last week Vietnam accused China of destroying a seismic survey boat in the South China Sea, while China said that Vietnam had "gravely violated" its sovereignty and warned its neighbor to stop looking for oil in the ocean without Chinese permission, said

Until it's clear which path the Chinese have embarked on, the U.S. along with China's increasingly insecure neighbors will have no choice but to brace for the worst while being mindful not to push the PLA into a corner and onto the defensive.

Otherwise the world could have a real time bomb on its hands.  Hit it, Matt!

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