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Beware The Ghosts Of Zheng He

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Is this rising economic powerhouse seeking to colonize world?

Southeast Asian waters (Photo: Anthony C. LoBaido)

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Anthony C. LoBaido

(Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series in which journalist Anthony C. LoBaido documents the recent maneuverings of Mainland China, along with her two erstwhile Asia allies, Myanmar ­– formerly Burma – and North Korea. From Korea to Hong Kong, Thailand, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Namibia and even to Portugal, LoBaido has traveled the world in the footsteps of Zheng He, following the advancing global arc of China. LoBaido examines ancient versus modern diplomacy and alliances, trade and various other elements of low-intensity colonization.)

Prequel

Is history cyclical or linear? For the major leaders of the Pacific Rim nations in the second decade of the 21st century, the answers are elusive, ever-shifting and fluid. Like water, they always seem to find the path of least resistance. The right way of doing things is the hardest. The wrong way is the easiest. And so humanity must navigate not only crooked rivers, but also crooked men.

The great navigators in Asia these days are Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar, who is now being likened to Nelson Mandela, and Park Geun-Hye, the first female president in South Korea’s history. (Her father was once the ruling general presiding over South Korea as a “benevolent” dictator.) They are following in the footsteps of Asia’s greatest navigator – mariner and explorer Gen. Zheng He.

Xi Jinping

Topping them all is Xi Jinping, China’s new leader, whose late father was one of the top leaders of the communist revolution in China back in the 1930s and 1940s. Xi Jinping is already demonstrating the acumen of Zheng He in a vast array of ways: Chinese-language training for American students, gas and oil projects in Southeast Africa, special forces training in China for Thailand’s most elite soldiers, proposing to have China’s elite young people work alongside Russia’s young elites, as well as trying to secure China’s first Atlantic military base in the Azores, which are owned by Portugal.

Xi Jinping’s bold actions clearly show there’s an unfolding plan for advancing China’s global reach so as to be commensurate with its rising economic power. There are various cards China can, and will, play. There’s the issue of China holding a share of America’s huge debt. There’s China’s ability to take out U.S. aircraft carriers with its DF 21-F ship-killing cruise missiles. Then there’s China’s desire to set up ports, and perhaps naval air stations, in the Burma Archipelago and off the coast of Pakistan in Gwadar as part of their “String of Pearls” to protect the Middle East oil shipping lanes.

Where will all of this lead humanity in the ensuing years and decades: Peace or World War III?

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