Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Burma - The North Korea of the Indian Ocean?

One shares the usual horror at what is happening with Burma of late - The Greek Chap puts it much better than I - and includes links.

My mind casts back to the velvet revolutions of the late 80s - and the successes they had. Is the Burmese regime more brutal than that of Romania? It's hard to judge. What is different to then is the sponsor - the skin in the game as we call it in my profession.

Back in 89 - the Soviets were a busted flush. And as their support crumbled their satellite regimes did with them. It would appear that China - hardly a paragon of democratic openness - potentially sees Burma as a satellite - and would gleefully prop up it's regime, and clearly sees the lives of fellow humans as rather cheap.

One wonders why.

Perhaps we see the world slightly differently to them. The Cold war view isn't there anymore for us. We forget the great game between the blocs fought in the buffer states from Angola to East Germany. Things may look a tad different to our chums in Beijing. All that has happened is the Old Bear has gone bankrupt. But There is a lot of her claws left.

I also think there are a host of geopolitical factors clearly at play.

I'm no expert - but I am familiar with some of the terrain - so here's a few guesses.

Could it be unofficial empire - long memories there in the land of the dragons. From suffering at the hands of Japan in the 30s - and a hundred years before that through the colonial manufactories in the great rivers - the Pearl northwards - would suggest that a few satellite regimes with resources and friendly goons at the helm give china a sense of comfort as it grows and flexes it's economic muscles.
The Pacific rim is lined with hostiles - Japan, Taiwan and the Americano-Australian bloc. Recent interventions in the Celebetic Archipelago to defend interests of the old SEATO bloc obviously unnerve China - so landward borders with friendly or propped up regimes may tip a local balance of power in her interests.

Could it be an interest in challenging an Indian economic bloc? India represents the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism, free trade and democracy that clearly concerns China. How else to maintain the regime if you keep the people in ignorance. With a Maoist insurrection stoked in Nepal, ongoing hostilities in Kashmir - how better to play the great game with India - a Nuclear India after all, than by keeping a modern day East Germany fizzling away to her eastern flank - to hem in any pretensions an economic powerhouse waiting to happen that is the old Raj.
Also If you can keep Kim and his cohorts ranting at the Americans across the 38th parallel and Burma worrying the Europeans - eyes can be blind to other pressures that she may wish to push - Japan - or West into the Sino-Russian frontier. Not the first time they have come to blows either. With a stroppy Russia to contend with - the great game can be played up against the old west and at the same time the old bear can be baited at leisure.

Finally - good old sea lanes. China's navy and therefore her ability to project her interests beyond the Pacific Rim is hampered by her Pacific Navy being largely littoral and the fact as far as she is concerned the scrap with Shek and Mao isn't done yet in Formosa / Taiwan - and all that island represents is the same scale of unsinkable aircraft carrier as we were to the threat of Soviet expansion across the Elbe in 45-89. With the Sea of Japan sonar-ed as tight as the Greenland - Iceland - UK gap was in 88, the Indonesian Archipelago a theocratic bloc - and the Malaccan straits covered as far as fleet movements are concerned - a friendly port in the Bay of Bengal is an ideal place to project interests to your trade enemies.

Power projection is still rated in Flat-tops. When Saddam went buying petrol in Kuwait - Both Maggie and George's Daddy asked the same question - where are my carriers? George 1, of course knew of these things - being a decorated navy pilot himself. She hasn't got them right now - but you can bet they are being built - or bought. (Good article here: Here)

In short - is Burma the soft underbelly China wants to the Indian Ocean? Or a buffer state for security in a cold war mind-set? Either way - this could be the first move in the Dragon flexing Geopolitical muscles beyond her old backyard of the Mekong to the south and represent a push in her interests Westward.

Gweilo ought to watch his step.

No comments: