The Marine Corps is a tiny armed force compared to the Army, Navy, or Air Force. Because of its small number of warfighters, whenever the Corps deploys to trouble spots around the world, the active-duty forces almost always include reserve component personnel.
During my 23 year tour in the USMC, nearly all reserve time, I was keenly attuned to potential flashpoints between international relationships. More than once, at a moment's notice, world crises had me inventorying gear in preparation for a trip far from home. It's a sense that many service members develop when politicians rattle sabers, and it is often justified.
Most of America has its attention currently fixed on COVID-19 and the toppling of statues dominating the headlines in our daily news broadcasts. However, because I listen to the news from the BBC, my concerns are about the two most populated countries on Earth; China and India. Both of which are members of the nuclear weapons club.
Few people are aware there is an ongoing border dispute happening high in the Himalaya Mountains between China and India. Last week at least 20 Indian soldiers were killed along with an unknown number of Chinese forces in a violent encounter. This is the first bloodshed between these two countries in decades of border tension. By all accounts, it is the Chinese forces who are the aggressors.
It's not only that mountain top border where China is asserting itself. For years the Chinese Navy has been building artificial islands in the South China Sea, east of Vietnam, to project sovereignty over the commercial and militarily strategic water passage. And, don't forget the current Chinese Communist dominance that is forced upon Hong Kong and Macao. Both areas are supposed to be protected under the "one country, two systems" form of government. Still, the Chinese Communist Party encroaches on or, worse, ignores the "two systems" frequently.
Many countries, including the United States, regularly send ships and aircraft into the South China Sea to maintain the "freedom of navigation" in the international waters, much to the Chinese's anger. At this very moment, two US aircraft carriers, USS Nimitz and Reagan, are sailing into the area to conduct sea exercises while the Chinese Navy is in the same place, doing the same thing.
The Chinese military has been building up for years. Their Navy, known as the People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), is currently producing ships at a feverish pace at several ports. The vessels under construction include carriers, destroyers, and most ominous, amphibious landing craft used to send personnel and material ashore.
Sadly, Americans and the rest of the world are helping to pay for all of this military buildup and modernization with each purchase we make of goods made in China. Remember, China is still a Communist country, disguised as Capitalists. Another seemingly small issue is Chinese software currently being used everywhere. Chinese owned media platforms Tik-Tok and Zoom are regularly used to make fun videos and video conference calls. It is poorly hidden secret the Chinese spy agencies are gleaning tiny bits of information and intelligence which eventually they use to paint a bigger picture. There is also a good chance that spy craft malware is being downloaded by those who use the social media software.
Turing attention to the west, the African continent's most prominent economic investor is the Chinese government. For years, Chinese army engineers have paved thousands of miles of roads annually in African countries. African airports are being upgraded, water wells drilled and treatment plants are built in countries all over the resource rich continent; resources that might be exploited later.
Keeping our head in the sand or being distracted by internal social issues only helps conceal that China is setting itself up to be the dominant world power, both economically and militarily. Chinese President Xi's own words a couple of years ago don't leave much to the imagination when he talks about the future of the Communist countries plans; "China has stood up, grown rich, and is becoming strong, it is now blazing a new trail for other developing countries." "Chinese wisdom and a Chinese approach to solving the problems facing mankind by 2049, we [China] will become a global leader in terms of composite national strength and international influence."
If I were in the reserves, I wouldn't be getting a haircut and my gear ready just yet. What still isn't clear is if China wants to increase its landmass in the pacific region, by force if necessary, or their plans might be to dominate the world economically. Or, a third option is they are planning to do both. Whatever it is, their actions indeed bear watching.