Into the Bleak Midwinter? The Indian Ocean and Korea

© Terry Boardman     This article first appeared in New View magazine Issue 58 Winter 2010/2011

Here in the Northern hemisphere as we approach the darkest time of year I can only say that the omens for peace in 2011 do not look good and that is without even thinking about America, Israel and Iran. First, it is well to be aware of some East Asian anniversaries. There will be many in that region who will be very conscious of the 60 year cycle completed in 2008 when North Korea celebrated its 60th anniversary and also the 60 year cycle completed in 2010 since the outbreak of the Korean War. The sexagenary cycle of the ancient Chinese calendar (1), well-known throughout East Asia, was based on cycles of five repetitions of the 12 animal years of the Chinese Zodiac and major historical changes were always expected  after multiples of this cycle: 60 years or 120 years. Historically minded Japanese and Koreans will also be keenly aware of the 100 years that have passed since 1910 when Japan cancelled its protectorate over Korea and summarily assumed direct rule, thus beginning its brutal colonial occupation of Korea which lasted until 1945. In 2011 historically minded Chinese will recall that a century earlier, in 1911, saw the outbreak of the Wuchang Uprising on 10 October that year which led, on 12 Feb 1912, to the abdication of the last Emperor of China, the five year old boy Pu Yi and the end of the ancient Chinese Empire. 2011 will also be 33 years on from 1978, when, on Christmas Day, Vietnam invaded the Chinese-backed People’s Republic of Kampuchea (Cambodia) that was ruled by the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime of Pol Pot. Vietnam acted in response to numerous bloody incursions into Vietnamese territory by the Khmer Rouge since 1975. China responded to Vietnam’s invasion of Kampuchea by launching a punitive incursion into northern Vietnam in February 1979; hostilities lasted a month until the Chinese withdrew.  At that time, China went to war to punish Vietnam’s termination of China’s ugly client state Kampuchea but nevertheless allowed that termination to stand. 33 years later, we shall see whether China is prepared to wash its hands of another ugly client state – North Korea. Finally, 2011 will be 2 x 33 years on from 1945, when the A-bombs were dropped on Japan, Japanese rule over Korea ended and the Korean peninsula was immediately split into American and Soviet zones of influence (2).  How do these anniversaries relate to the 21st century?

The human ego, as Rudolf Steiner maintained throughout his work, takes full command around the age of 21 but it first makes a tentative appearance in the human entelechy around the age of three when the child begins to say “I” to itself. By analogy then, the ego’s taking charge of the life in the 21st year  relates to its first onset after those first three years of life. The first important phase of what began then with that first word “I” is in a sense completed at 21 and [western?] society has traditionally acknowledged this in the rights of adulthood it has given to the 21 year old. How can we see this resonance in terms of the 21st century? One clear symptom is the way in which the 21st century is already coming to be configured by the confrontation between America and China, because here something very old and very modern are confronting each other. The cultures of western and central-southern Asia, from Turkey to India, the cultures of Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, are ‘religious’ cultures. They are marked by a sense of loss of the divine and by a yearning to reunite with the divine. The very word ‘religion’ comes from the Latin ‘re-ligere’, to bind back, or reconnect and you can only re-connect with something when the connection has been lost. These cultures of western and central Asia are also marked by their religious rituals, ceremonies, precepts and written scriptures and laws. This is much less the case in China and in those societies greatly influenced by China (Korea, Japan, Mongolia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma). Although ‘religion’ and ‘religious cultural habits’ have penetrated those societies from further west in Asia, from the truly ‘re-ligious’ part of the world, the societies of East Asia and pre-eminently China are in a sense ‘pre-religious’ cultures. They yearn less for the supra-earthly and the transcendent because they retain more of the ancient Atlantean consciousness that ‘the divine beings live here on earth with us’, which was, according to Rudolf Steiner, the Atlantean experience. He points out that in those days, what we call the angels and even archangels actually were present, sometimes even as rulers in Atlantean times. In those times one felt bound up with those beings, part of them and, consequently, the sense of a ‘collective consciousness’ within the people was much greater. One’s clan or family was a ‘being’ and one was not an autonomous individual but a member of this collective, this ‘we’.

China has retained something of this ancient Atlantean consciousness, more than India and much more than Europe and America, where it has largely faded, because it has been transformed by the awakening sense of the individual self. This is why the blood ties and the family ties are so very strong in China and East Asia in general. China, Korea and Japan are not cultures in which lawyers have traditionally been honoured, because the law and legal paragraphs and regulations and codes are things which are necessary only when one no longer is in contact with the divine will. The law in China, Japan and Korea traditionally expressed the will of the divine or semi-divine ruler, not some body of contracts between contracting parties. There was none of the respect for ‘the law’ in China that grew up in the Jewish or Greco-Roman cultures. What one respected in China was the will of the manifestly superior consciousness (the Emperor, the mandarin, the scholar), not any body of abstractly codified rules.

Clearly, this mentality has something in common with the attitude of the small child who lives in a condition of trust upon his all-knowing, ever-loving (though sometimes strict) all-capable parents and, indeed, the attitude of people in China and East Asia towards the state, for example, has historically been very different from the prevalent attitude in the West, where there has always tended to be suspicion of the state as domineering, manipulative or corrupt, suppressive of the individual. But in China and East Asia, the state is accepted as the family is accepted and the head of the state was but paterfamilias – ‘Father’ of the family. This mentality stems from Atlantean times when the gods themselves ruled the community and the state. Something similar obtained in ancient Egypt, whose state structure survived for thousands of years, as has China’s, precisely because of this mentality which gave to the social system a near unshakeable stability. That these attitudes survive in China certainly does not mean, of course, that all Chinese are like little children – that would be crass racism. Cultures have their own biographies and so do the individuals who reincarnate into those cultures. Cultures change through the individuals who incarnate into them and who can either help the culture to take a step forward in its development or cause it to take a step back.

China and America

European culture before its age of colonial expansion was a mix of peoples who had originally moved east from Atlantis and remained in Europe and who were then, over the passing millennia, permeated by various cultural influences from Asia and the Mediterranean region. By contrast, the American continent today, especially in the north, includes native peoples whose ancestors had  travelled west from Atlantis, as well as others who had crossed from Asia at a later date. In the last 500 years have come immigrants and cultural influences from just about every region on earth. While China built its wall to keep ‘barbarians’ out, and Korea, Japan and Tibet all had their own periods of deliberate national seclusion, America has been open to people from all regions. In the 20th century, as humanity approached the 21st ‘birthday’ of the ‘New Adam’ (the renewed, spiritual humanity spoken of by St Paul in 1 Corinthians 15), it was an American nation, the United States, that had taken the position of global primacy. But as we entered this 21st century we saw that China was itself entering the ‘globalised’ world. In 2002 it joined the World Trade Organisation and by that time it had already become the world’s largest manufacturer and supplier of consumer goods as well as being the main purchaser and supporter of American debt. The two countries – the ‘oldest’ and ‘newest’ major world cultures – seemed to be locked in an interdependent economic embrace.

This mutuality does not extend to politics, however. China, maintaining its ancient view that the collective comes before the individual,  demands that it be allowed to develop and modernise at its own pace and it should be said that there are many more freedoms in China today than there were 50 years ago. America and its ‘allies’, however, more impatiently demand that China change at their pace. We see in the controversial award of the Nobel Peace Prize to the imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo this year a symptom of the profound misunderstanding between East and West. The West demands that its individualist values should be accepted now by everyone everywhere and focuses on individual cases such as that of Liu Xiaobo, and before him, of the brave young Chinese man who stood in front of a column of tanks during the Tienanmen Square incident in 1989. The West says, “these are the true Chinese, who only want the individual freedoms that we want and already have”. Many Chinese reply – and thanks to Internet discussion boards and blogs, we now know what many Chinese think and say besides the political authorities – that those are only some Chinese and not the majority and that the West should mind its own business and allow China to grow more gradually.

The New Agenda: Clash of Civilisations

However, there is more to the symptom of Liu Xiaobo’s Nobel Prize than the western media are wont to let on (3). Those who are really at the helm of western civilisation, not the here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians but the opinion-formers behind the scenes, invisible or only semi-visible to the mass of the celebrity-focused public, swiftly changed tack after the fall of the Soviet Union. They knew that it was the end of one era and the beginning of the next, and they very quickly drummed up the new narrative for media consumption. One could see this in the debates and discussions at the leading Anglo-American thinktanks expressed in their journals. Seminal in this process was the Clash of Civilisations thesis of Samuel P. Huntington, first published in 1993. Huntington signalled that the western elites realised that in the new era it would not be economic ideology but religious, spiritual and cultural ideology that would be the new battleground and he identified two particular challenges to Anglo-American domination: Islam and China – and the latter’s “Confucian values”, as he chose to call them. The legions of Anglo-American thinktanks and their European allies quickly took up the cause. One after the other, America and its ‘allies’ (or satellites) have taken it on to confront these two cultural forces and major media propaganda campaigns have been waged to get western publics ‘on side’, using everything from news stories to Hollywood movies, sport and now even the Nobel Peace Prize. First the Muslims and now, increasingly, the Chinese, have been vilified and demonised.

No stone has been left unturned in this campaign. It is now well-known, as Zbigniew Brzezinski admitted it himself in an interview with the French newsmagazine Le Nouvel Observateur in 1999, that the dragons’ teeth seeds of Islamist violence were sown by Brzezinski himself when he was National Security Adviser to Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s and advanced a programme to – in his words – “give Russia its own Vietnam” in Afghanistan. This led in the 1980s to covert American support for the Islamist radicals, the mujahideen, many of whom came from Saudi Arabia, including one Osama bin Laden. After the fall of the USSR, the Americans appeared to withdraw their support for a while and let the various Afghan groups fight it out. Meanwhile, the US government took on Saddam Hussein in the 1990s and tried to pretend to the world that he was another Hitler. This resulted in American troops being based in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, which incensed Islamist radicals, including, apparently, bin Laden. The demand that America withdraw from Muslim countries and the continuing oppression of Muslims in Palestine by Israel, a country constantly supported and funded (4) by the US, and the denial of Palestinian rights only fuelled Islamist resentment and violence. In Afghanistan’s civil war, the fundamentalist Taliban eventually came out on top. That did not bother the US government – until the Taliban refused to do business with the American energy corporation UNOCAL to lay pipelines from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to the Pakistan coast on the Indian Ocean , the so-called TAPI pipeline:

“…until August [2001], the US government saw the Taliban regime “as a source of stability in Central Asia that would enable the construction of an oil pipeline across Central Asia” from the rich oilfields in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, to the Indian Ocean. Until now, …”the oil and gas reserves of Central Asia have been controlled by Russia. The Bush government wanted to change all that.”"(5)

The Taliban refused to play ball and 9/11 and the invasion of Afghanistan followed in short order. Once located in Central Asia, where they had never before had military forces, the Americans lost no time in securing bases in the other ‘-stans’ (former Soviet republics)  in the area on the pretext of supplying their forces in Afghanistan. The US now had, and still has, for example, a major base at Manas in Kyrgyzstan, a country which borders China ‘s sensitive province of Xinjiang with its large, non-Han Chinese, Muslim Uighur population. The base, now termed a ‘Transit Centre’, is also only a short flight by jet from China ‘s nuclear test facilities at  Lop Nor. The Diplomat, a pro-western foreign affairs website specialising in Asian issues, reported: “In March 2010 the US transported 50,000 NATO soldiers to Afghanistan via Kyrgyzstan as it represents the quickest and most efficient route”(6). A quick look at a map is all that is needed to disabuse anyone of the notion that Kyrgyzstan represents the quickest and most efficient route to Afghanistan (7), which is like saying the quickest route to transport goods to Scotland from London is via Norway !

This map from CNN (8) shows that the US now has at least 12 known bases in Central Asia. It was reported on 11 December that the TAPI pipeline deal has finally been signed (9). But is this what the Afghan War and indeed 9/11 – the stated justification for the war –  were all about: oil and gas? No, there is far more. That TAPI pipeline is intended to reach the Indian Ocean at or near the Pakistani port city of Gwadar (just west of Pasni on the above map). The problem is that Gwadar was built by the Chinese in 2007 and opened the following year. It “is now being expanded into a deep sea port and naval base with Chinese technical and financial assistance”(10). And this is only one element of the ‘string of pearls’ strategy the Chinese are employing in the Indian Ocean . It has a large naval base and listening post at Gwadar, another port at Pasni…a fueling station in Sri Lanka (11), a container facility in Bangla Desh, surveillance facilities in the Bay of Bengal and various bases and facilties in Burma, intending to connect the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan to the Indian Ocean. In short the Chinese have been steadily moving into the Indian Ocean in a significant way that has unnerved the big powers in the region, the US and India. The US Marine Corps document Vision and Strategy 2025 concluded that “the Indian Ocean and its adjacent waters will be a central theatre of global conflict and competition this century”(12). It is against this background that we should see what has been happening in Somalia and Yemen, where the US claims to be battling ‘forces linked to Al-Qaeda’. The Somali pirates of the last 10 years have almost conveniently served to draw NATO and even Russian vessels into Indian Ocean waters to combat them. The hawkish Neocon thinktanker, Robert Kaplan, writing in Foreign Affairs, the journal of the very influential bipartisan foreign policy thinktank, the Council On Foreign Affairs in New York (13), says that “Piracy has the potential to unite rival states along the Indian Ocean coastline”.   Kaplan   agrees with the Marine Corps authors: “the Indian Ocean is where global struggles will play out in the 21st century”. He sees the United States facing three related geopolitical challenges  in Asia : “the strategic nightmare of the greater  Middle East , the struggle for influence over the southern tier of the former Soviet Union [Nb. a vast area! – TMB], and the growing presence of India and China in the Indian Ocean .”(14)  Kaplan would have us believe that the US is only in the Indian Ocean region as a benign schoolmaster, “coalition builder supreme”, he calls it, to oversee “the peaceful rise of India and China ” but his belligerence is only slightly veiled. He goes on: “The task of the US Navy will….be to quietly leverage the sea power of its closest allies – India in the Indian Ocean and Japan in the western Pacific – to set limits on China’s expansion.” India has thus already become an ‘ally’ as close as Japan.

Kaplan’s opinions are only opinions and he is only one man, it might be objected. However, one needs to note not only the enormous influence of the Council On Foreign Relations over American foreign policy during the past 80 years but also the fact that Kaplan’s latest major essays are often the leading articles in the Council’s journal Foreign Affairs, featured on the front cover. Above all, one only has to observe and see whether American actions are heading in the directions Kaplan indicates in this case – and indeed that they are doing. Like so many American conservative thinktankers, Kaplan harks back to British imperial precedent of a century ago. Just as Britain sought to use the sea power of allies such as Japan and the USA to contain Russia in the Edwardian era, so now, he says, the US must encourage India and Japan “to balance against China”: “What better way to scale back than to give more responsibility to like-minded states, especially allies that, unlike in Europe, still cherish military power?” American hegemony in the region must be replaced, he says, with “a subtle balance-of-power arrangement” ­ the old Venetian and British tactic again of the balance of power ­ which worked so well to keep the peace in 1914 and 1939!

In a more recent essay “The Geography of Chinese Power – How Far Can Beijing   Reach on Land and at Sea” in Foreign Affairs (Vol. 89 No 3, May 2010) Kaplan begins with the thoughts of the British imperialist geopolitician Halford Mackinder in 1904, providing further evidence that today’s would-be imperial Romans, the US East Coast elite, instinctively look back to the example set by yesterday’s imperial Romans, the British. Quoting with approval Mackinder ‘s influential article “The Geographical Pivot of History” (1904), Kaplan writes :

 ”[Mackinder] posited  that the Chinese, should they expand their power well beyond their borders “might constitute the yellow peril to the world’s freedom just because they would add an oceanic frontage  to the resources of the great continent, an advantage as yet denied to the Russian tenant of the pivot region.”

The pivot region mentioned here was ‘the Heartland’ (see map)(15).  A key concept in Mackinder’s thinking, it referred to that part of northern and  central Asia and Siberia controlled by Russia that was full of resources and inaccessible to the sea powers of the ‘global periphery’, Britain, Japan and America. Control of this area would ensure the ruler of the Heartland power over the entire world.  Mackinder ‘s dictum went: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island [ Eurasia ]; who rules the World-Island commands the world.” The dictum was repeated in Zbigniew Brzezinski’s 1997 book The Grand Chessboard, arguably the most incisive and illuminating book of recent years on western geostrategy. After discussing what he calls China’s “irritable border syndrome” – regions such as Burma, Xinjiang and Tibet which can serve to put pressure on China, Kaplan moves on to describe what he calls China’s “creeping control” over the mineral-rich regions of Mongolia and the Russian Far East. The current Russo-Chinese alliance in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation is “purely tactical”, he says; “geography could drive them apart… this could benefit the United States “. He mentions how in the early 1970s the US (Nixon, Kissinger, Rockefeller) took advantage of the Russia-China difficulties of those years to open the US  to China ; now, he says, the reverse was possible – the US “might conceivably partner with Russia in a strategic alliance to balance against the Middle Kingdom”: both ends against the Middle – the old formula. The Indian Ocean region is so important because it is the maritime frontage to the central Asian landmass on which so much of America’s geostrategic planning is focused (16). The US is seeking to ‘contain’ China as it did the USSR from 1947 onwards. “From Beijing’s vantage point, the United States is arrayed along China’s periphery, with a long-term presence in Japan and South Korea, strong ties with Thailand and the Philippines, a blossoming partnership with India and a growing role in Central Asia .”(17)

The end of North Korea ?

But the Indian Ocean to the west of China is not the only area where the western powers seek to contain the Chinese. The other is to the East – Japan and the Korean peninsula, and this year (2010) has seen some very ugly and violent incidents breaking out in this area. In March the world was told that a North Korean submarine attack had sunk the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan close to the marine border between the two states, killing 46 sailors. A so-called ‘international’ commission, which actually consisted of Americans, South Koreans, Britons, Australians and Swedes (i.e. all American allies) determined that North Korea was responsible for the attack, though “on 9 July 2010, the United Nations Security Council issued a Presidential Statement condemning the attack but without identifying the attacker” (17). Throughout the summer of 2010 the US and South Korea conducted extensive military drills in the region and several days before the next major set of such drills was set to begin, the North Koreans revealed news of their new uranium enrichment facility, which prompted the South to consider requesting the USA to relocate tactical nuclear missiles in the South, which had been absent for 19 years. Then on 23 November the North Koreans shelled the same island of Yeonpyeong , killing four civilians, accusing the South of having fired into their territorial waters. This was one of the most serious military incidents in the region since the end of the Korean War. China responded very coolly, urging all parties to show restraint and calling for resumption of disarmament talks. South Korea and the US brushed aside these proposals in their strident criticism of the North and proceeded to carry on with their extensive programme of naval drills. US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said: “We are not interested in talks, and talks are no substitute for having North Korea fulfill its international obligations, meet its commitments and cease provocations”. The top US military official Admiral Mike Mullen warned that “the ante is going up and I think… the stakes in terms of stability in the region are going up.” Then, a few days later came news from the Wikileaks revelations that Chinese officials had let slip that their government was prepared to see the Korean peninsula unified under the control of Seoul. The Wikileaks cables also revealed the Chinese as saying they could perhaps cope with an influx of 300,000 Korean refugees if the state suddenly collapsed, but not more. These were highly significant revelations, as no such Chinese statements had ever been made public before, but they showed how the Chinese leadership seemed to be changing its views with regard to its Korean neighbours. These developments leave the beleaguered North Korean leadership, with its defunct economy, its starving population, its nuclear weapons and its leadership transfer quandary, in a very tight spot; they now know that the whole world knows that Beijing does not really support them and is prepared to see the end of the North Korean state. The question is: will the North Korean elite accept the inevitable and go quietly into the night  like the East German communists did after the fall of the Berlin Wall in the autumn of 1989 or will they choose to rage against the dying of their ‘light’ and bring on their own Götterdämmerung as Ceaucescu did in Romania at Christmas that year?

Certainly, a sudden North Korean collapse would put great pressure on China, something that certain western elements would no doubt like to see. It is also possible, however, that such an event might lead to a general improvement of relations between China, Korea and Japan, just as the earthquakes in Greece and Turkey in the summer of 1999 led to spontaneous mutual aid and a real thawing of the frosty relations between those two old enemies. From the western elite’s point of view, a major crisis in East Asia over Korea would serve well to put China further on the back foot and also to distract the attention of western publics from the appalling economic and financial quagmire that their own political and financial mandarins have dragged them into. The omens do not look well for the Year of the Rabbit, a pacific animal, but 1939 was also the Year of the Rabbit. We shall need to be very awake, to  watch and pray.



(2) Lu and Wang were proponents of the non-dualist School of Mind and Action. They rejected orthodox Neo-Confucian dualist principles which saw knowledge and action as different things. Chamberlain, an English proto-Nazi thinker who moved to Germany , had a great influence on Rosenberg , ‘the’ philosopher of Nazism.

(3) For alternative views of the Liu Xiaobo case, see Yoichi Shimatsu (New America Media),

Nobel’s Pro-Military Agenda and the Future World Order

(4) US foreign aid to Israel 1949-2007 totalled  $101 billion, far in excess of that given to any other country.

Source: Congressional Research Service :

(5) Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquie

Bin Laden, la verité interdite (Bin Laden, the forbidden truth) (2001)



(8) Source:

What the map does not show are the numerous other bases surrounding Iran . See


(10)  Gwadar is in Baluchistan province, where  the Pakistan armed forces have been conducting a long and bloody campaign against armed separatists. Plans for a free Baluchistan surfaced in the US Armed Forces Journal in 2006. See the second map here:

(11) This Sino-American rivalry was the background for the vicious struggle between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government which ended only last year in ‘victory’ for the government, which was supported by China, while the Tigers were covertly supported by the US and UK.

(12) Robert Kaplan ,  “Centre Stage for the 21st Century – Power Plays in the Indian Ocean ” in Foreign Affairs March/April 2009 (Vol. 88 No. 2)

(13) Foreign Affairs March/April 2009 (Vol. 88 No. 2)

(14) Kaplan, Foreign Affairs March/April 2009 (Vol. 88 No. 2)


(16) There is an esoteric dimension to all this too, for it is not only Atlantis that is in a sense making its presence felt through the antagonism between America and China in this critical 21st century. Before there was Atlantis, there was Lemuria, which apparently  consisted of parts of what is now Africa , Madagascar , India , Sri Lanka , Indian Ocean islands, Indonesia and Australia . In the Indian Ocean region was thus centred the oldest human culture in the world. This region too now seems to be ‘reasserting’ itself in the century of mankind’s egohood. See R.Steiner, Cosmic Memory



© Terry Boardman

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