Enter the Dragon: Chinese Navy Returning to Western WatersThis is of historical importance, since it seems that the current regime hasn't sent major naval expedition outside the Pacific before. China's got good reason for looking after its interests: the crew of a Chinese cargo vessel fought off pirates with beer bottles, fire hoses, and "homemade incendiary bombs" this week.
In a way, it's good to see China getting back on its feet. It's been a long time since the time of the Ming Dynasty's Zheng He, when China was setting up trade partnerships with places in India and east Africa. I wouldn't mind seeing American interests trading in that part of the world, either: and I figure that we'll all profit if trade with major nations like China helps places like Somalia become prosperous.
That's the long-range view, though. Right now, Somalia is in big trouble.
Somalia: Good News, Not-So-Good NewsFor starters, there's no government to speak of, pirates seem to be running the north part of the territory while religious fanatics hold parts of the south. From what I've heard, fanatics have killed pirates because pirates captured a Muslim ship, pirates are making trade risky in the Gulf of Aden, and a growing number of countries with serious firepower are getting interested in stopping the pirates.
That's no way to run a country.
At this point, the American navy commander in the area isn't at all anxious to go after the pirates on land. He's concerned about the possibility of hurting people who aren't pirates. That wasn't a big surprise to me. In the world I live in. American armed forces really are quite careful about collateral damage. That's one of the reasons we're developing increasingly precise and intelligent weapons: and why we didn't nuke Baghdad.
I don't think all nations are quite as squeamish. And, at the rate the Somali pirates are going, sooner or later they're going to convince some nation that stopping them is worth the cost in fuel and bombs to blow away a few Somali villages: people, livestock, and all.
Putting it mildly, I don't think that would be a good idea. Particularly since at least one private-sector American diplomat may be on the way to ending Somali piracy without a land war (and making a profit doing it).
I don't know if China would be the 'bombs away' nation. Chinese leadership has been pretty heavy-handed with places like Tibet. On the other hand, I like to think that the people running China are savvy enough to know it's not a good idea to bomb potential customers into the stone age.
As with so many other things in this world, "we'll see."
- "Cruise Ships and Safety: Designated Smoking Areas and Sonic Cannons"
(December 1, 2008)
- "Negotiated End to Somali Piracy - This Just Might Work "
(November 26, 2008)