In December 2013, the Chinese launched an “all-out” island building campaign in the South China Sea. The islands quickly became military bases. A very large portion of the Pacific Ocean was simply annexed by the Chinese Communist Party.
As this Chinese offensive unfolded, then Vice-President Joe Biden landed in Beijing for meetings with Chinese leaders. Biden was the administration’s point man in the so-called “Pivot to Asia.” It was his job to stop Chinese expansionism.
Joe didn’t do his job. With him on Air Force Two when he landed in Beijing was his son Hunter. Hunter went off to meeting with other Chinese officials who handed him $1 billion from the State Bank of China. That sum was later upped to $1.5 billion.
Hunter collected the cash. The Chinese took the South China Sea. You can call the two things coincidental if you choose. I don’t believe in coincidence. What we know for sure is this. The Chinese pushed, and Joe never pushed back.
We may be about to see another such series of events unfold.
A Chinese company called the Fujian Zhonghong Fishery Company has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Papua New Guinea and the Fly River provincial government to build a $200 million “multi-functional fishery industrial park” on the island of Daru. The island of Daru is the closest Papua New Guinea community to Australia. It is only slightly over 100 miles from the coast of Australia and sits right on the Torres Strait that separates New Guinea and Australia.
The Fujian Zhonghong Fishery Company is controlled by the government of Communist China. The deal in question is being sponsored by the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
There are no important commercial fishing grounds anywhere near Daru. The island itself is poorly developed and its people impoverished. There is no rational reason for the investment of this much money by the Chinese at this location from a business perspective.
But, then again, this is not a business deal.
What the Chinese are going to build at Dara is a port. They are going to build wharves, and warehouses and support facilities. In short, what they are going to build is a naval base.
It may be used initially by fishing vessels, but in the Chinese system, all vessels are under government control and serve government purposes. In fact, it would be more accurate to look at China’s vast fleet of fishing vessels as a militia rather than a commercial enterprise. Their mission is to expand China’s sphere of influence. Chinese fishing vessels are armed and their crews trained by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy. They often swarm areas in fleets of hundreds of vessels.
Eventually, the inevitable will occur. Chinese naval vessels ostensibly deployed to protect their fisherman will begin to call. Facilities will be expanded. Heavy weapons will appear. The façade that Daru is a purely commercial facility will be abandoned.
The Chinese also signed a second deal recently with Papua New Guinea. This allows them to dredge sand along the Fly River near Dara. For those not familiar with the process used by the Chinese to build artificial islands, this is how they do it. They dredge sand from the bottom of the sea and pump it up into giant piles forming dry land where none previously existed. Apparently, the Chinese are not just building a base on Dara. They are going to begin to create as yet unidentified additional islands in the immediate area.
The real significance of Dara does not lie simply in its proximity to the coastline of Australia. It lies in the fact that a base there can control all maritime traffic through the Torres Strait. Australia imports 80% of its oil. Most of that oil comes from refineries in Singapore. Any of that oil moving to ports on the East Coast of Australia like Brisbane and Sidney has to transit the Torres Strait. Just as the Chinese can threaten the movement of ships to Taiwan, Korea and Japan via their bases in the South China Sea, they will now be able to hold a dagger to Australia’s throat.
What the Chinese are doing in Dara is what they have already done in the South China Sea, in Tibet and in numerous other places. They are annexing territory. They are expanding.
Just as we see daily with Taiwan and India, the Chinese have chosen this moment to make a move in Dara. They have calculated that Joe Biden will do what he has always done before – serve their interests. They are attempting to gain what may be a decisive, strategic advantage over the government of Australia, which has dared to resist their advances, and place Canberra in an untenable position. Australia’s oil reserves won’t last ninety days if the flow of oil into the nation is cut off. The Chinese may be on the verge of acquiring the ability to do just that.
What Australia’s options are right now is unclear. They might – in another world – expect strong support from their old friends the Americans. With Joe in the Oval Office, though, those prospects look bleak. If the Australians are waiting for Joe, they will be waiting a long time.