War on China: John Pilger asks is Beijing really the enemy?
IT'S no secret that Beijing has been building up its military might in the South China Sea.
But there's another superpower making an even bigger play to stay top dog and many of us wouldn't event realise.
The United States has surrounded China with 400 military bases in an almost perfect "noose".
In a new documentary set to air on Sunday night, The Coming war on China, award-winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger challenges the notion of the world's newest, biggest trading nation as an enemy.
He also reveals the build-up to war taking place right on Beijing's doorstep.
Filmed over two years in the Marshall Islands, Japan, Korea, China and the US, Pilger highlights America's secret history in the region.
The eye-opening documentary reveals some surprising findings including that the people of the Marshall Islands were used as nuclear guinea pigs under the top secret "Project 4.1".
Pilger also travels to Japan and Korea where he speaks to and observes people resisting the US expansion.
He visits the Japanese island of Okinawa where 32 US bases are located and speaks to those who are challenging the world's biggest military power.
On the Korean island of Jeju, a world heritage site, he witnesses farmers, villagers, priests and supporters who block gates to a base only to be removed every day.
In an interview with news.com.au ahead of the film going to air, Pilger said he wanted to "help people make sense of a critical subject that is seldom more than a series of sound-bites."
"I say critical, because a strange and dangerous atmosphere currently separates the world's greatest military power, the United States, and a country that will almost certainly become the world's greatest economic power, China," he said.
"In the past few years, the provocations, threats, contradictions and confusion have caused the kind of mistrust that make war by misunderstanding or by mistake or accident a real possibility. And both the US and China are nuclear-armed."
Pilger also raises questions over whether it's Beijing we should really be worried about.
"China is surrounded by 400 US military bases in what one strategist describes as a 'noose'," he said.
"Many of these bases are on China's doorstep, armed with missiles, naval battle groups, nuclear bombers, drones. US naval warships patrol just outside Chinese waters."
While the US has almost 1000 foreign bases, China has just one which Pilger said was smaller and did not threaten California.
Acknowledging Beijing was building provocative airstrips on disputed islets and reefs in the South China Sea,
Pilger said the US not only surrounded the country, but was also establishing new bases aimed at China.
He also makes the point that it was Barack Obama and not Donald Trump who turned a "regional dispute in the South China Sea into a major flashpoint between nuclear powers."
"In 2011, Obama came to Canberra and announced the 'pivot to Asia' - an innocuous term for the greatest build-up of US naval and air forces in the Asia Pacific since World War Two, aimed at China," he said.
"Trump is cartoon-like and slightly unpredictable; otherwise his foreign policy, such as it is, is consistent with US designs for dominance since the Korean War in the 1950s."
Pilger thinks Australia has a lot to be concerned about.
"On one side is China, Australia's biggest trader; on the other side is the US, Australia's "longstanding ally"," he said.
"Longstanding ally means that Australia's political, military, intelligence and security establishments are fully integrated into US war and strategic plans. We are a colony. We don't have an independent voice.
"A vivid example of this was Labor's defence spokesman, Richard Marles, calling last year for the Australian navy and air force to take warlike action in the South China Sea - in line with the wishes of the Pentagon. The Turnbull government has so far resisted going along with this. But the situation is precarious and very dangerous.
"If Australia provoked China militarily, it could mean war of some description; and Australia might even find itself on its own. If Australia was truly independent it would have no enemies. "This makes the Turnbull government's acquisition of billions of dollars' worth of armaments, submarines and fighter- bombers impossible to justify."
Pilger, who returned to China for the first time in decades, said he was surprised at the transformation of impoverished, dark cities to modern, booming international centres as well as the optimism of the Chinese.
However, he said many people remained fearful of what the US would do to maintain its position as the world's top dog.
"One strategist said to me, 'We don't want to be your enemy [in the West]. But if we are constantly described as such, we have to prepare,'" he said.
"Accordingly, China has been rapidly increasing the size of its military; and specialist literature in the US says that China has upgraded its nuclear weapons posture from low alert to high alert."
John Pilger's The Coming War on China premieres on SBS on Sunday, 16 April at 8.30pm.