“A golden opportunity to use force”: mysterious China Energy Fund Committee attack-dogPosted: September 29, 2011
UPDATE 6/10: Some interesting tidbits about Long Tao’s name 龙韬 here. Prof. June Dreyer points out that it refers to one of the Six Secret Teachings, which may make it a veiled call to cast aside officials who stand in the way of the suggested plan.
UPDATE 30/9: The Global Times has now posted an English version of Long Tao’s article. Possibly a response to the Japanese- Philippines “strategic partnership” and Japan’s further “wading” into the South China Sea dispute.
Tuesday’s Global Times carried an opinion piece titled ‘The present is a golden opportunity to use force in the South China Sea’. I thought the title would have just about said it all, and was therefore only going to offer some juicy excerpts, but as i read through it i found almost every sentence too good to leave out:
The internationalization of the South China Sea issue is perfectly clear, but it has not completely taken shape yet. The author believes now is a golden opportunity for China to coolly assess, grasp the opportunity, and take swift and definitive action.
At present every country is engaging in an arms race, procuring long-range maritime control weapons. Even Singapore, which is not part of the South China sea dispute, is preparing to introduce advanced stealth fighters. Australia and India’s military plans are in order to make world-class preparations, and Japan doesn’t want to be left behind either. America is energetically selling armaments with one hand and pouring petrol on the fire with the other, and at the same time is preparing to intervene militarily.
[. . .] One should not be afraid of small-scale wars, for they are a good way to release fighting potential. By fighting several small wars one can avoid a large war.
Speaking of war, we can look first at who should actually fear it. The South China Sea region has more than 1,000 oil and gas wells, but none of them belong to China. There are four airports in the Spratly Islands, but Mainland China does not have one. China has no other important economic installations. Leaving aside the issue of winning and losing, as soon as war commences the South China Sea will inevitably become a sea of fire. When those towering oil drilling platforms become flaming torches, who will be hurt the most? As soon as the fighting begins, all those Western oil and gas companies will inevitably withdraw, so who will lose the most?
As far as China is concerned, this is the best battleground. The author believes that in deploying force in the South China Sea we should reduce the attack area and lock down the Philippines and Vietnam, the two most vicious troublemakers, thus killing the chicken to warn the monkey [sha ji jing hou 杀鸡儆猴]. In terms of the scale of the war, it only needs to reach the objective of punishing the offenders: there is no need to copy America in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. This is a victorious war, so we should strike artistically, and it could become a great lesson in moral instruction.
The Philippines compares itself to a mosquito, saying it doesn’t fear the Chinese elephant, seeking sympathy from the world. Admittedly an elephant should not try to trample a mosquito, but should the mosquito bite the elephant? What is more, this “mosquito” has invited the “eagle” to help it along. The author believes that each country’s occupation of China’s sovereign territory, and their succession of large-scale military exercises has presented China with the perfect rationale for a decisive counterattack.
Rational, beneficial, segmented – these are still principles we must adhere to. With willingness for a large-scale war and actual preparation for a small-scale one, China should hand the choice between war and peace to its opponents, establishing a new image of China. As the experience of Russia in 2008 taking decisive action to rapidly stabilize the Caspian Sea situation shows, while actions by great powers may lead to shake up the international scene for a period of time, taking the long view we can see that this allows for the fundamental realization of regional stability and great-power strategic settlement, which is the blessing of world peace.
The author, Long Tao (龙韬), is listed as a “strategic analyst with the China Energy Fund Committee” (CEFC, Zhonghua Nengyuan Jijin Weiyuanhui), a self-proclaimed “non-profit, non-governmental think tank devoted to public diplomacy and researches on strategic issues with emphasis on energy and culture”. The concern with culture appears to be about building bridges with Islamic countries, presumably those blessed with significant oil reserves, but the Chinese version of the organization’s website appears more devoted to talking up the glory of China’s own culture with nationalist buzzwords like weida zhenxing (regeneration), jueqi (rise) and its minzu jingying (national elite). The CEFC actually states its mission to be “planning the future of the Chinese nation”. It may also have some rather leftist leanings, judging by banners like this one:
The English-language internet has almost no information besides the sketchy official website and a Facebook page (really!). No less than thirty-eight “consultants” are listed (among them, interestingly enough, is Mao Yushi, the economist who was subjected to online struggle by the Red Guards 2.0 earlier this year due to an essay he wrote pointing out Chairman Mao’s crimes), but there is no information about its founders or financial supporters. I’ve emailed some of the consultants and will post an update if i get any reply.**
The article was not far from the usual Global Times editorial line. In fact, it was not the first time the author Long Tao had made the case for war – he did so back in late June when the issue was last at its peak, mounting a frenzied attack on fellow GT commentator Wu Jianmin for equating restraint with self-confidence: “When the Korean War broke out in 1950 it was a Korean civil war,” Long Tao fumed, “China’s decision to send troops was obviously not ‘restrained’, so was that because the New China was not ‘self-confident?” This provoked a fiery 91,000-strong discussion on Phoenix – almost exclusively in support of the hardliner. This time around, however, Long Tao’s article was strangely absent on Phoenix. Netease carried it, but it somehow did not attract a single comment. On Sohu the piece seems to have hit the mark, with 72,000-odd participants.
This time around, an opposing viewpoint has been put forward on Xinhua by Sun Peisong of the Jiangsu Development Research Center. Sun argued for the idea of keeping conflicts “simmering” (ao 熬), which he described as a “Chinese form of wisdom” that the Communist Party’s great revolutionary leaders had deployed during World War II when the Japanese invaded. Sun’s argument seemed reasonable to me, but most of the 41,826 NetEase users who commented disagreed:
Mmm, I agree, simmer it till it becomes a pot of soup, then give it to the American masters of this “expert” 
Haha~~~~The expert has come out to explain! When you lose your own land you can howl all you like but you’re still castrated 
What sense does this make? How many countries have America, Britain and France bombed? When the South China Sea is being occupied by others, what use is it to be afraid of this or that? Some expert, go home and eat some potatoes. I’m a believer in striking when you should strike. Getting angry makes you sick. 
[. . .]
As a kid who has grown up in our great military, I can’t believe this! Be realistic, take the initiative, abandon delusions and prepare for war. Of course, we want the war to be within our scope to control it, what is not ours we won’t touch, what is ours we will fight to retain the last inch (there may be some things that temporarily can’t be gained). Chinese people must be very clear: if you can’t win on the battlefield then you can’t win at the negotiating table. We love peace but we should not blindly retreat. In a just war, if you must fire the first shot then you do it, the more you delay, the more complicated the South China Sea dispute gets, and the probability of other great powers intervening increases. For peace we must struggle, for development we must struggle, for the dignity of the ancestral land [zuguo 祖国] and the Chinese nation we must struggle! For to avoid being despised by our offspring and future generations we must struggle! 
I laughed to death bro, the absolute truth from the mouth of a real “brickspert” [zhuanjia 砖家]. Haha. “Hide our capabilities and wither!” [taoguang yangwei 韬光养萎]
CCTV has also hit back with a piece claiming that “war would be the worst choice”. However, that clearly served to enrage more people than it placated: the angry comments were flowing in at a rate of about 1 per minute before the whole comments section was suddenly disabled.
Add to that the recent online survey, to which more than 99% of respondents said they wanted to see the Philippines substantively punished, and it’s probably safe to say the South China Sea issue is approaching “wave” [chao 潮] proportions in China both in the media and online.
** Who would set up such an organization, and why would it be putting out arguments for war in the South China Sea? Presumably not China’s state-owned oil companies, Sinopec, PetroChina and CNOOC, since they already have significant development opportunities there and military conflict would only deprive them of the stability required for resource extraction. Might it have some connection with the PLA?