Kings of the East lust Westward
By Chuck Missler
During the ancient world empires, the locus of power-the center
of gravity in the world economy-went from Persia, to Greece,
and then to Rome.' It has remained in the West for the past
2000 years. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the
center moved from the Mediterranean area to northern Europe,
then crossed the Atlantic to America. The twentieth century
turned out to be, as Henry Luce put it in 1941, the American
The locus of power now appears to be continuing its move to
the east. Based on present trends, the twenty-first century
appears to be the Asian Century. In a little more than a decade,
that region's share of world economic output has increased to 25
percent, and that figure is rising. The East's portion of the
world's foreign exchange has leaped from 10 percent to more
than 50 percent, and with national savings rates ranging from 30
percent to 45 percent, the East is generating more savings each
year than the U.S. and Europe combined. Lest we forget, it is
savings-the creation of capital-that generates economic growth.
To this add 3 6.5 billion
dollars per year-more than 100 million dollars per day-of capital
investment flowing in from Western nations. China has attracted
more foreign investment in the past five years than Japan has in
the 50 years since World War 11.
However, a smooth and peaceful transition is highly unlikely.
Some are predicting that the twenty-first century may be the
most convulsive period in all of world history. A number of
factors are conspiring to make the Far East increasingly
unstable over the coming decade. These factors include:
1. China's inexorable rise to superpower status
2. The retrenchment of the U.S.
3. The existence of numerous potential causes for war
4. A burgeoning arms race.
Emergence and Retrenchment
With more than 1.2 billion people, China claims 22 percent of
the world's population. Although the country is poor on a per
capita basis, China's economy is growing by more than 10
percent per year. If the U.S. continues its growth of about 2.5
percent per year and China continues to grow at its present rate,
the two economies will reach approximately equal size of about
8 trillion dollars in the next decade.
(It could take China a century to overtake the U.S. in per capita
income, but this statistic is largely irrelevant geopolitically. The
significant statistics are those indicating aggregate resources
which China can command rather than the individual wealth of
its citizens.) China's rapid rise to superpower status will change
the balance of power in the Far East, inevitably destabilizing the
The inevitable retrenchment of the United States as the
protector of the status quo is another aspect of our relative
economic decline. Following World War II, the United States
accounted for 40 percent of the gross world product (GWP).
This share has now declined to 22 percent and is likely to drop
Total U.S. military expenditure accounts for 30 percent of the
world's military budget. For a country with 4.7 percent of the
world's population and 6.3 percent of the world's land mass, it is
unlikely to maintain its former level of dominance.
History shows a 20-year decline in the United States'
commitment to the Pacific region:
In 1975, the U.S. was forced out of Vietnam and the
Communist North Vietnamese took control of the American-
built naval base at Cam Ranh Bay.
In 1976, all U.S. bases in Thailand were closed and all troops
In 1990, the U.S. announced a reduction of U.S. military forces
in the Pacific from 135,000 to 100,000.
In 1992, the U.S. closed its naval base on Subic Bay in the
Philippines, its largest base in the region. Clark Air Base was
In 1996, the U.S. announced that it would pull out of some of its
bases in Japan.
These moves all point in the same direction, and the message
that Asians are receiving is that they can no longer rely on
America for their security.
Potential for War
Serious potential for war threatens the Far East, including the
exploding population growth, numerous disputed islands,
continuing border disputes, and strong ideological tensions.
Mainland China contains 22 percent of the world's population on
7 percent of the world's land mass, while arable land resources
are declining at the rate of 725,000 acres per year due to erosion
and other factors. Obvious targets for potential seizures include
the Russian Far East, Siberia, and Central Asia. China's
continuing assertiveness toward the resources in the South
China Sea is also highly probable.
China's energy needs have risen by more than 50 percent over
the past ten years, and the country is now the second-largest
user of oil outside the U.S. Over the next two decades, China's
demand could exceed three times its current production.
Speculative hopes in the South China Sea will strain relations on
Thousands of tiny islands in Asian waters are subject to
competing claims. For example, six countries-China, Taiwan,
Vietnam, the Philippines, Brunei, and Malaysia-claim all or part
of the Spratly Islands, which are located in the sea lane
connecting the fast-growing economies of Asia with the oil-rich
Middle East. One Japanese military expert predicts that
whoever controls the Spratlys will gain regional hegemony in the
Other islands at the center of disputes include the Paracels
(Vietnam versus China and Taiwan), the Tokto Islands (Japan
versus South Korea), the southern Kuriles (Japan versus
Russia), the Senkaku Islands (Japan versus China and Taiwan),
the Natuna Islands (China versus Indonesia), Pedra, Branca
(Singapore versus Malaysia), and the Sipadan and Ligitan
Islands (Malaysia versus Indonesia).
Border disputes also persist between China and Vietnam, China
and Laos, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, and Cambodia and
Vietnam. Each of these areas could flare up with the
heightening of insecurities in the region.
Overshadowing these tensions in recent times is the pressure
that China is placing on Taiwan and the potential conflict
between North and South Korea. The displays of military force
intended to intimidate Taiwan resulted in the U.S. moving two
aircraft carrier groups into the region in March 1966.
Defamatory rhetoric included threats by China to nuke Los
Angeles. Despite the standoff, Beijing declared that military
action against Taiwan would follow any declaration of
independence, any foreign invasion of Taiwan, and any unsavory
foreign military alliances.
The Korean situation also deteriorated significantly
during 1995 and 1996. The movement of a North Korean
force of over a million men with combat planes to the
demilitarized zone between the two Koreas has positioned North
Korea for a tactical surprise that could, along with its nuclear
weapons, shatter the South Korea- Japan-U.S. solidarity
during any initial breakouts.
Arms Race in the Pacific
The new prosperity in Asia, the shifting and uncertain balance of
power, and the numerous tensions are all fueling an arms race in
the Pacific that almost rivals that of the Middle East.
China has 5.4 million troops comprised of 3 million forces in
active duty, 1.2 million in reserves, and 1.2 million in the People's
Armed Police. It has 10,000 tanks, 18,300 heavy artillery pieces,
50 submarines, 55 warships, 500 bombers, 5000 fighter planes,
1040 support aircraft, and 17 ICBM nuclear missiles capable of
reaching the Western
United States. The Dong Feng (East Wind) 31 is a solid-fuel
ICBM with a 5000-mile range and is launched from mobile
The Chinese navy, previously the least important figure in
China's military lineup, is now prioritized as the senior service. In
purely numerical terms, it is remarkably large, with 1150 ships in
inventory. That is more than 3fi times the number of ships
operated by the U.S. Navy. China maintains an aggressive
commitment to converting its costal patrol navy into a jinhai
("green-water") navy and a blue-water navy by 2020. (A green-
water navy is described as one able to operate from Vladivostok
in the north to the Strait of Malacca in the south and out to the
first island chain.) A world-class blue-water navy is China's
China has operated up to 100 submarines over the last 30 years.
In addition to substantial purchases of Russian Kilo-class
submarines, the Chinese navy also boasts the Xia nuclear
ballistic missile submarines, which look very much like the USS
George Washington or the Russian Yankee-class boats. These
subs originally carried 12JL-1 submarine launched ballistic
missiles-called CSS N-3 in the West. These single-stage, solid
fuel missiles resemble the Polaris A-1 and are credited with a
range of 2500 nautical miles. China's multiple independently
targetable re-entry vehicle payload missiles, the CSS-4, are
presently being sea-tested, with a more advanced CSS-N-4 also
The Chinese navy also boasts its Han-class nuclear powered
attack submarines. While not as quiet as the Russian or U.S.
boats, these vessels are highly respected among professionals.
China is presently negotiating the purchase of an aircraft carrier
from the Ukraine, in addition to as many as 20 Kilo-class
submarines. Experts do not believe that Russia has sold any
wake-homing torpedoes to China, but Kilos are
reported to be so equipped. U.S. surface ships still do not have
any anti-wake-homing torpedo capability.
China launched its first communications satellite on a new Long
March-3 rocket in April 1984. At least nine communications
satellites are now available for naval links as needed. China has
been using downlink data from the Japanese GMS and the
U.S. Landsat, Nimbus-1, and National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration satellites to provide critical oceanographic data to
support their submarine operations.
The U.S.-China relationship is clearly becoming the most
geopolitically important one in the world, replacing the old U.S.-
U.S.S.R. rivalry. Unfortunately, U.S.-China relations have
reached a low point and are getting worse. Diplomatic strains
involve disputes of human rights, trade, and America's
involvement with the affairs of Taiwan.
The abuses of human rights in China are beyond imagining. It
has been estimated that over 60 million people have been
slaughtered by the Communists.' The harvest of body parts and
organs from political prisoners and other abuses have been the
subject of major concerns to the West. More than 3100 slave
labor camps are presently exploiting tens of millions of slave
labor prisoners to produce much of the 45 billion dollars in
Chinese goods exported to American markets.
China is the fourteenth-largest export market for American
goods; U.S. exports to China reached 9.3 billion dollars in 1994
(yet our trade deficit with China last year was 35.9 billion
dollars). To exacerbate an already strained relationship, the CIA
has concluded that China has indeed recently delivered
important components for missile systems to Iran and Pakistan.
These components are believed to improve the accuracy of the
North Korean Scud missiles already in Iran's arsenal and will
enable it to build such missiles on their own. Further, in the past
three months China has delivered M- 11 medium-range missiles
and parts to Pakistan, in violation of an international accord.
Moscow, in its desperate search for funds, has been
transferring vast quantities of arms and high technology to
China. This can lead to Russia's worst nightmare: an
authoritarian neighbor with an economy roughly the size of
America (ten times the size of Russia), but with a population
four times as large, sharing a land frontier impossible to defend.
Experts indicate that by 2010 China will have between 70 and
75 ground-force divisions, around 3000 combat aircraft, 60 to 70
major surface vessels, and 50 to 60 submarines. Russia's
Pacific Force, on the other hand, will consist of just 15 to 20
ground-force divisions (down from the current level of 34 and
the 1980 level of 46), 400 to 500 combat aircraft (down from
965 today and 1300 in 1980), 40 major combat surface
vessels (down from 80 in 1980 and 50 today), and less than 20
submarines in the Pacific (down from the current figure of 35).
Russia's Far East has a history of trying to break away from
Moscow's control, and in 1917 it was one of the first regions to
do so. It took five years before Moscow regained control
(during which a small expeditionary force of U.S. and Japanese
troops landed at Vladivostok to assist the White Army against
the Bolsheviks in 1919).
The massive influx of over 25 million Chinese migrants is a
growing and intolerable threat to Russia's Far East. A
Department of Defense study attaches an 85 percent probability
to the rolling disintegration of Russia, yielding China an
opportunity to encroach on the Russian Far East.
In the table of nations in Genesis 10 we find a reference to a
tribe called the Sinites. Sinim is derived from a root suggesting
"thorns." This suggests a people living at the extremity of the
known world; some believe it is identified with the inhabitants of
China. This probably derives from Ch'in, the feudal state in
China from 897-221 B.C., which unified China in the third century
B.C. and built the Great Wall. In later eras the Ch'in boundaries
were always considered to embrace the indivisible area of
China proper. It is from this dynasty that the name China is
derived. (Also note the Greek sinae and the French Late Latin
Thus we have sinology, the study of Chinese, especially with
reference to their language, literature, history, and culture. The
Sinitic (Chinese) languages have in common a number of
features, many of which are typological in nature:
monosyllabicity, tonality, affixation, indistinct word classes, use
of noun classifiers, and strict word order. Phonological
correspondences in shared vocabulary have been important
evidence in the argument that all Sino-Tibetan languages derive
from a common source.
During the Ch'in dynasty, the first governmental standardization
of characters was instituted and involved some 3000
characters.' The Ch'in characters have to a large degree
remained the standard to the present day.'
Archaeological researchers in Central Asia have disclosed
extremely ancient seats of culture east of the Caspian Sea and
have suggested the possibility of migrations from what is now
Sinkiang and Mongolia (and possibly from farther west) and also
of very early transmission of art forms from western Asia and
In the second half of the first millennium B.C., to protect itself
from the Hsiung-Nu, a powerful group of nomadic tribes which
then occupied the lands now in northern China, the Ch'in began
to build the Great Wall along their northern frontiers in the late
fourth century B.C. The Muslim writers in the eighth century
refer to the Great Wall of China as Sud Yagog et Magog, "the
ramparts of Gog and Magog."' The Muslims refer to Gog and
Magog as Vadjuidj wa madjudj in the Koran.'
In Isaiah 49:12 we also find a provocative reference: "Behold,
these shall come from far; and, lo, these from the north and
from the west, and these from the land of Sinim."
In Revelation 16:12 we also find the Far East joining the
Armageddon conflict: "And the sixth angel poured out his vial
upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried
up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared." It is
interesting that the phrase "kings of the east" translates literally
from the Greek as "kings of
the rising sun" (avnatolhlj Viou). This is, however, the
classic way of speaking of the East, so one might make too
much of this. (Or could the Holy Spirit be hinting at something
more precise than we generally suspect?)
The current rapprochement between Japan and China
is extremely provocative from a prophetic viewpoint. The
combination of Japan's capital and technology with the
labor and raw materials of China is expected to spark, during
the next decade, the biggest economic boom that planet
Earth has ever seen.
The Continuing Signs
Our horizon continues to be moving toward the lineup
that fits the classic biblical scenario-in Europe, the Middle
East, Russia, Israel, and now also the Far East. We are indeed
in the times of the signs!
I personally believe that you and I are being plunged
into a period of time about which the Bible says more than
any other period of time in history-including the time that
Jesus walked the shores of Galilee and climbed the mountains of Judea.
Each of us as believers has a twofold challenge: 1) to find
out what the Bible predicts about these times; and 2) to find
out what is really happening in our world today. Both are
"Behold ye among the nations, and regard and wonder
marvelously, for I will work a work in your days which ye
will not believe, though it be told you"(Habakkuk 1:5).
"The prudent man foreseeth the evil and takes refuge,
but the simple pass on and are punished" (Proverbs 22:3;