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NightWatch 20110608

NightWatch

For the Night of 8 June 2011

China: People's Liberation Army Chief of General Staff General Chen Bingde said the 300-meter (990-foot) refurbished Soviet aircraft carrier Varyag was being built but has not yet been completed, Hong Kong Commercial Daily reported 8 June. Chen's assistant, Qi Jianguo, said the aircraft carrier would not enter other nations' territories in accordance with Chinese defensive military strategy. Qi added an aircraft carrier was a symbol of a great nation.

Comment: NightWatch has reported the recent progress of China first aircraft carrier. There is no new information in the report, but it Qi's statement reinforces the assessment that this first Chinese carrier has significant symbolic value in supporting China's emergence as a military as well as an economic power.

The Chinese are following their interpretation of the US model of a great power. It includes possessing an aircraft carrier or two. They are arriving at a capability that Western navies and the Japanese Navy developed more than 70 years ago.

It is important that they consider it a symbol because the most visionary naval strategist in the US describes aircraft carriers as big targets for small missiles.

Nevertheless among the riparian states of the western Pacific and the South China Sea, Chinese leaders will be unable to resist the temptation to use aircraft carriers to show the flag and assert hegemony. Expect a great Chinese fleet to circumnavigate the world in coming years.

In the next two decades China will be launching more carriers when India will be sailing a fleet of newer generation carriers of its own. Then the competition for dominance in Asia will reach a new level.

Saudi Arabia-Yemen: Saudi Arabia has donated 3 million barrels of crude oil to Yemen, according to the Saudi oil minister. The oil is intended to boost the domestic economy and ease Yemen's shortage of petroleum derivatives, the minister said.

Comment: This is the third significant initiative by the Saudis to rescue Yemen from potentially extremist forces. The purpose of this donation is to split the protest movement by easing the real struggles of working people. It is a bribe in that sense, but also a test to determine whether satisfaction of genuine economic grievances will reduce the instability in Yemen and isolate the activists.

Libya: Update. Thousands of pro-Qadhafi fighters advanced on the rebel-occupied city of Misrata on 8 June, according to a rebel spokesman. The spokesman said Qadhafi forces are shelling Misrata from east, west, and south, and rebel casualties include 10 dead and 26 wounded. The rebels called for help.

Comment: The rebel description of the action suggests that Qadhafi's fighters in the area probably just got paid because this is their first offensive action reported in several weeks.

End of NightWatch for 8 June.

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