The New Zealand military, in all its blimpish 1930s glory, has already attracted the displeasure of Beijing with a hostile "security review" brought out just as the NZDF signs up for four $500m (each) plus warplanes.
But the news that China is operating, not warships but hospital ships, in the waters around PNG simply demonstrates how archaic and out of touch our military (and their Australian masters) actually are.
The Australians (suffering as they do from 'small American' disease) want to see everything as a re-run of world war two. In this scenario China replaces Japan in the role of "yellow peril" and is set on expanding its economic "coprosperity sphere" by force.
Its a narrative which is rehearsed every Anzac day in strange rituals of rememberance that the defence establishment uses as propaganda to propogate its outrageous budgets. Not only is it self serving nonsense it is also wilfully and stupidly wrong.
The People's Republic of China is not 1930s Imperial Japan. There is almost nothing the two entities have in common except a lack of indigenous oil production.
Many New Zealand traditionalists have no idea why Japan attacked Pearl Harbour 7 December 1941. They are happy to live with the racist notion that it was the natural consequence of asian inscrutable malevolence. The real reason is much less convenient. The US cut off Japans oil supply. It tried, and failed to annex Russia's sibetian oilfields, leaving only the Dutch East Indies (Dutch colonial Indonesia) oilfields undefended. In many respects US President Roosevelt (who was desperate to gain some pretext to enter the war against Germany) provoked Germany's pacific allies on purpose.
This is not to say Imperial Japan was a land of peace and happiness. It certainly was not. Japan was hit hard by the Wall Street crash and the deflationary policies of the US Federal Reserve combined with the discovery of nylon. Nylon replaced silk and silk was a staple cash crop of Japans peasant farmers. In the 30s Japans peasant farmers faced misery and sent their girls to work the streets of Japans cities and boys to join the army. It was this sense of self disappointment which fed the fires of fanatic Emperor cults throughout the Japanese military.
The Japanese saw the western powers raping China with opium and gunboats and took their lead from them. While the Japanese Navy grew more powerful the Navy's bitter rivals, the Japanese Army, developed its presence in China, taking the exploitation of China to whole new levels of cruelty.
If there was any time China resembled Japan in the 1930s it was 50 years ago under the rule of Mao Zedong. But since Deng Xiaoping and the incredible growth of the Chinese economy any resemblance has fast disappeared.
Unlike Europeans or the Mongols the Han Chinese have never sought global conquest. They didnt even take on the Koreans unless under Mongol rule. The only time conquest might have been possible was in 1492 under Admiral Zhe. China did not follow that path. In fact it turned inward, as it has always done and banned itself from building a navy.
China's expansion since Deng has been largely mercantile. Instead of the lives of its precious one-child family's babies, it risks money. Africa is a perfect example of China's diplomatic stance. It helps build infrastructure and give aid so that African nations can trade with it. By contrast Europe pays its own firms to deliver Europes cast offs and maintains trade barriers. Africans emigrate to both China and Europe and, of course, there are more in Europe (because it is closer), but the Chinese are far more welcoming of those they trade with.
Chinas diplomatic confrontation with India has also been revealing. While there have been brief confrontations in the mountain borders China's main strategy has been to bypass. So it has built its massive Belt road to Pakistan and Iran so as to secure access to the Indian ocean. It has built a massive port for Sri Lanka and it continues its long association with Burma.
War is expensive and rarely profitable and with thousands of years of civil wars behind it China sees little to be gained from crazy confrontations.
Instead China prefers the rule based international order the New Zealand strategic review expounds and the 45th President of the United States is setting about wrecking.
That is why China's approach to the Pacific is not gunboats and bases but hospital ships and aid. It will develop the economies of the Pacific, just as it has developed the economies of Africa. It will use law, and money and politics to gain peacefully, and with agreement, the things that the Europeans and Americans have traditionally taken at the point of a gun.
Not surprisingly this policy will win. Given a choice of friends between racists who look down on you, hand out peanuts, and run around with guns, or friendly people who build you stuff and take your trade seriously who wouldnt want to change?
When Responsibledefence looked at the Pacific I saw the need for a different kind of military engagement. One based on economic development. This meant replacing the frigates and the Endaevour with two logistics support ships able to carry containers, vehicles, water, fuel and run a fairly serious medical clinic at the same time. In addition to this were small ocean going patrol boats also able to carry containers and vehicles able to service islands without much infrastructure.
The colonel Blimps in defence have no economic or strategic analysis so they can't think like this. They run on tradition and Australian directions. Unable to think outside their rigid little squares they retreat into the familiar of old war stories leaving the future of the Pacific to China.