Japan from the inside out

Gone fishin’

Posted by ampontan on Thursday, September 30, 2010

MICHAEL TURTON at The View from Taiwan has another excellent post on Chinese swagger in East Asia in general and in the Senkakus in particular.

He links to an essay at the International Assessment and Strategy Center by retired Vice Admiral Ota Fumio, a former Director of Defense Intelligence Headquarters in the Japan Defense Agency and now the director of the Center for Security and Crisis Management Education at the National Defense Academy.

Admiral Ota makes the point that the Chinese fishing boats are often really naval forces/combatants. Referring to a photo on the site taken from the Chinese Internet, he writes:

The above picture is that of a disguised Chinese fishing boat laying mines. When China took (the) Paracel Islands from Vietnam in 1974, China used similar disguised fishing boats. In 1978 over one hundred Chinese armed fishing boats surrounded the Japanese Senkaku Islands. When the Philippines Mischief Reef was occupied by China at the beginning of 1990s, China used disguised maritime militia, saying that they needed safety refuges for fishermen. Should Japanese naval vessels attack those maritime militias, it should be expected that China will issue propaganda that the JMSDF killed innocent civilians. Should China invade the Japanese Senkaku Islands, she will use those maritime militias as a spearhead. In their 1999 book Unrestricted Warfare, two Chinese colonels advocated the use of cross border measures such as cyber attack, but also using non-military means including disguised fishing boats.

That should clarify the reason the Americans sent the Sasebo-based minesweeper Defender to call at the Port of Hirara in Miyakojima, Okinawa, last week.

The admiral also offers a theory about Chinese defense budgets:

My estimate is that Chinese Defense Budgets only include development costs, personnel, commodity, maintenance and administrative expenses. The weapon production and purchasing costs are counted as part of national fundamental construction costs. Defense research and weapons developments are counted as part of the education and science research budgets. The armed police administration costs are included in administrative management budgets. Draft and civil military support costs are counted as part of regional finances.

Foreign weapons purchases such as the Su-27 and Su-30 are counted as the foreign currencies foundations. Food and self-sustenance costs are counted as military production activities…

Why does China offer false Defense Budgets? This is consistent with China’s deception practices, such as Deng Xiaoping’s 24 Character Strategy, especially “Hide our capabilities and bide our time.” China wants to defeat the China Threat Theory, project an image that it is a peaceful rising power and seeks advantages in information and psychological warfare. Chinese defense budgets have been increasing at a rate in the double digits since 1989 just when every country started enjoying peaceful dividends.

Admiral Ota’s article is worth the time spent to read it. It goes well with another paper I linked to recently from the Jamestown Institute. Here it is if you missed it the first time:

(C)onsistent with the Chinese tendency toward close integration of civil and military institutions, China’s large fishing fleet is already integrated into a maritime militia that could render crucial support in a hypothetical military campaign, whether ferrying troops across the Taiwan Strait or laying mines in distant locations. The sheer number of fishing vessels that could be involved would present a severe challenge to any adversary attempting to counter this strategy.

Here’s a second paper of interest at the Jamestown Institute site, called the Ryukyu Chain in China’s Island Strategy:

In late August the Japanese daily Yomiuri Shimbun reported that the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) intend to stage their first-ever island defense exercises in December. The maneuvers will be held in concert with U.S. Navy forces to refine plans for recapturing the lightly protected Ryukyu Islands from a hostile—presumably Chinese—invading force (Yomiuri Shimbun, August 20). To date, the response from China has been rather muted considering the stakes it faces (Asia Times, August 31).

The Chinese response doesn’t seem to be muted any more.

Returning to Mr. Turton’s post, he adds this comment:

Yesterday I got another lecture from a Chinese nationalist who informed me that after the Senkakus comes Okinawa, which “was ours before.” This kind of talk, which I have heard many times and which is not limited merely to pimply-faced man-boys commenting on the internet, shows how the stronger China becomes, the more belligerent it feels like becoming.

He also posts an e-mail from American congressman David Wu from Oregon regarding a speech Mr. Wu gave at Georgetown University this week. Here’s an excerpt:

“Historically and geographically the Diaoyu Islands have been a part of China since the Ming Dynasty. Japanese sources have acknowledged Chinese ownership since the late 1700s. Japan laid claim to the islands after its war with China in 1895.

“It is in everyone’s interest, including the United States’, that the dispute over the Diaoyu Islands be resolved promptly and peacefully.”

Chinese advocates will be in attendance. Following his statement, Congressman Wu will be holding a town hall meeting at Georgetown University with foreign students from China.

There was no doubt in my mind about Mr. Wu’s party affiliation before I looked it up. Of course he’s a Democrat—as is Mike Honda of California, who conducted the comfort women hearings three years ago as a quid pro quo for campaign funds from local Korean and Chinese groups, and as was Teddy Kennedy, who for many years funneled money to the IRA. Loyalty to allies is not one of the party’s strong points, as a new generation of politicians is discovering about the Obama administration.

Mr. Wu seems to have trouble leaving the Old Country behind. His parents were from Suzhou in Jiangsu province and later moved to Taiwan. The congressman was born in Hsinchu, Taiwan, in 1955 and moved with his family to the United States in 1961.

A week or so ago an English-language blogger wrote that China really needs that fishing fleet in the Western Pacific to “feed its growing population”.

That reminds me of a scene in the 1953 move Stalag 17 about American airmen in a German World War II prisoner of war camp. There’s a mail call to distribute letters from home, and the soldiers are shown reading their mail. Here’s a snippet of dialogue about one of the letters:

Triz’ Trzcinski:
I believe it! I believe it!

You believe what?

My wife. (Reading) ‘Darling, you won’t believe it, but I found the most adorable baby on our doorstep and I have decided to keep it for our own. Now, you won’t believe it, but it’s got exactly my eyes and nose…’ Why does she always say I won’t believe it? I believe it!

Maybe he also believes they’re using mines to stun the fish instead of catching them with nets. That would explain the story that the Chinese captain of the fishing trawler the Japanese detained is really a captain in the Chinese Navy.


The scene from Stalag 17 is at the 7:30 mark in this YouTube clip. It’s a fine bit of acting by Edmund Trzcinski, the man who wrote the play on which the movie is based. Fans of Mission: Impossible will recognize the actor who appears on the far left at the very beginning of the clip. (The actor with the heavy stubble in the same scene was Neville Brand, who won a Silver Star for combat bravery in that war.)

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6 Responses to “Gone fishin’”

  1. sixmats said

    Disturbing news indeed.

  2. Roual Deetlefs said


    My thanks to you and Mr Turton for a great read. You should start a newspaper together, but if not, make some more podcasts. Once again thanks.

  3. Roual Deetlefs said


    Read this article. Some of the comments are good as well.

    Interesting he quoted C. Fred Bergsten, whom I wouldn’t believe if he said the sky was blue. Haven’t heard anything from him in a while. Surprised that he’s still around.

    Here’s another view on the trade war.

    – A.

  4. Roual Deetlefs said


    That was interesting. A bit like what Norman Bethune had to say about war :

    “Is it possible that a few rich men — a small class of men — have persuaded a million poor men to attack and attempt to destroy another million men as poor as they, so that the rich may be richer still?

    They told them that this brutal war was the destiny of the race. It was for the glory of the emperor; it was for the honour of the state; it was for their king and country. False – false as hell! They make war to capture markets by murder, raw materials by rape. They find it cheaper to steal than to exchange, easier to butcher than to buy. This is the secret of war. It is the secret of all wars: profit.

    Business. Profit. Blood money.

    Threaten a reduction on the profit of their money, and the beast in them awakens with a snarl. They become as ruthless as savages, brutal as madmen, remorseless as executioners.”

    He was a Communist as well as a doctor. I see that he was a volunteer in the PLA as well. A pity the China of today has forgotten these words …

  5. toadold said

    “When Henry Kissinger asked then-Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai for his assessment of the French Revolution, the Chinese leader reportedly responded, “It is too early to tell.””

    The Chinese have been playing the game of war and empire for a long, long, time. The British Empire while large was of short duration in comparison. When the Chinese weren’t fighting each other they had wars on the borders. Their desire for resources is very deep. They are now aggressive on the world wide economic front also, buying into croplands, mineral resources, and etc., so it is no surprise that they are trying to take what they can’t buy. Unless you are of the poorly traveled and poorly read Western leftist goody goody mindset.

    Kissinger again, “We wanted a compromise, they wanted to win.”

  6. 21st Century Schizoid Man said

    Wow, Chinese way. But Japanese government is responsible for disclosing the video to the world. And I know how China react to it, if done – “the video is hoax”.

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