China: The Next Big Enemy? The domestic politics of the new Sinophobia

Those Chinese sailors who "harassed" a U.S. military vessel lingering perilously close to a Chinese base on Hainan Island, in the South China Sea, reportedly stripped down to their underwear when our sailors turned water hoses on them. Maybe the shower facilities on Chinese fishing vessels — it was fishing trawlers, not military gunboats, that met the Americans on China’s doorstep — are insufficient, or maybe the Chinese were mooning us. I’m inclined to think the latter. In any case, Sunday’s incident ratchets up tensions with China — which have been roiled in recent weeks, not only by a series of similar incidents, but also on account of issues broader than China’s claims to virtually the whole of the South China Sea.

To begin with, the U.S. claims that the USNS Impeccable was manned by civilians and was just going about its undefined business when, suddenly, those big bad Chinese started "harassing" us — the bullies! But wait. Take a look at the Impeccable:

This baby is 5,368 tons, and over 281 ft. long: it is a surveillance ship, designed to track enemy submarines. China’s contingent of nuclear-powered subs are reportedly based at Yulin, on Hainan. And while the U.S. government maintains that the crew is "civilian," half its crew are military personnel.

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