China’s Plans for Global Empire Take a Great Leap Forward in Cambodia
China and Cambodia have signed a deal granting the Chinese military use of a naval base on Cambodia’s coast. This is the latest milestone in China’s quest to become a global military power.
The Wall Street Journal broke the story on July 22, noting that, while the Chinese and Cambodian governments have denied the reports, “United States and allied officials” obtained “an early draft” of the agreement and were certain that “a deal had been done.”
The agreement grants China’s People’s Liberation Army exclusive rights for 30 years to a 62-acre section of the Ream Naval Base, allowing it to station soldiers, weaponry and warships there.
Meanwhile, a state-run Chinese company is building an airport near Ream in Dara Sakor, Cambodia. Upon opening next year, it will be Cambodia’s largest airport, considerably larger than the international airport in Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. China insists that the airport is strictly for commercial use. But satellite imagery shows that the runways being built there are far longer than those needed for commercial aircraft and of a suitable length for Chinese military transport aircraft and long-range fighter jets. China and Cambodia are clearly working toward a goal they have not publicly disclosed.
The capacity to launch military operations from the naval base and airport would considerably boost China’s power to enforce its claims of sovereignty over almost the entire South China Sea. A military presence on Cambodia’s coast would also increase China’s influence over the strategically vital Strait of Malacca, through which 90 percent of South China Sea crude oil shipments transit.
The Japan Times said that China’s foothold in Cambodia “would mark a critical moment in Southeast Asian security and potentially transform the regional security outlook.”
This transformation is partly because, since 2014, China has also constructed and militarized seven artificial islands in the South China Sea, mainly in the Spratly and Parcel chains. Adding a military position in Cambodia to China’s existing presence on these islands would give China a triangular perimeter around the entirety of mainland Southeast Asia.
“If you have a naval base in Cambodia, it means the Chinese Navy has a more favorable operational environment in the waters surrounding Southeast Asia,” Charles Edel, a former U.S. State Department official, told the Wall Street Journal. “You have all of a sudden mainland Southeast Asia potentially sitting behind a defensive Chinese military perimeter. This is by far the biggest implication.”
A Worrying Pattern
The denials from China regarding the deal also fit into a worrying historic pattern.
During its first several years of building artificial islands in the South China Sea, China’s ruling Communist Party repeatedly denied that they had any military purpose. In September 2015, for example, Chinese President Xi Jinping stood in the Rose Garden in the U.S. and promised that China did not plan to militarize the islands. “Relevant construction activity that China is undertaking in the Nansha Islands does not target or impact any country, and there is no intention to militarize,” he said, using the Chinese name for the Spratly archipelago. Even as it fortified and armed the islands, China continued to deny their obvious true purpose.
Likewise, the Chinese leadership vehemently denied having plans for foreign military bases, up until it opened its military base in the East African nation of Djibouti.
In both cases, China changed facts on the ground as it issued denials—until it was too late for other powers to challenge the new reality with anything short of a major diplomatic, economic or even military conflict. And the pattern seems to be playing out once again in Cambodia.
Cambodia’s exiled opposition leader, Sam Rainsy, told the Financial Times, “I’m afraid Cambodia is becoming a de facto Chinese colony.”
A Loss for the U.S.
United States officials have been taken aback by Cambodia’s decision to make itself a “de facto Chinese colony.” This is largely because the U.S. has invested considerable resources over the years into building up Cambodia and striving to win it over as a partner nation.
The U.S. has pumped billions of dollars into the nation for military assistance, education, poverty reduction and economic growth. It has helped train the Cambodian military and built defense installations there, including some facilities at the very same naval base that Cambodia is now opening up to China.
Despite all the spending and all those efforts, Cambodia is turning its back on the U.S. and giving China invaluable access to its territory.
One concerning way China’s foothold there could challenge U.S. power is in the event of an attack on American allies and partners in the region, such as Taiwan, Japan, South Korea and the Philippines. Should one of these nations come under attack, some of the U.S. forces charged with defending them would normally transit the Strait of Malacca. But by using forces based in Cambodia, China could block or complicate such a passage.
The agreement with Cambodia represents the latest boost in China’s capacity to project military power around the world, at the expense of U.S might. This development simultaneously advances three trends that are significant in the context of Bible prophecy: the dawning of “the times of the Gentiles,” the coming together of “the kings of the east,” and the decline of the United States.
‘The Times of the Gentiles’
During His ministry on Earth, Jesus Christ said that shortly before His return the world would enter into an era called “the times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24). Editor in chief Gerald Flurry discussed this epoch in the July 2014 Trumpet issue, explaining that the term Gentile refers to non-Israelite peoples. Israelites make up “a lot more than the little nation in the Middle East,” he wrote, adding that in end-time prophecy, Israel refers to modern-day America and Britain primarily. (For a thorough explanation, order Herbert W. Armstrong’s free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy.)
“Once you understand who Israel is,” Mr. Flurry wrote, “then you can understand how the Gentiles—the non-Israelite peoples—have started to take charge of the world right now. … While there are many Gentile nations around today, when this prophecy is completely fulfilled there will be two major powers.” One of the two will be headed by Germany, he explained, and the other by Russia and China.
When the world is fully in the midst of these “times,” U.S. influence will have dried up. Gentile nations such as China will have filled the vacuum of power.
“These ‘times of the Gentiles’ are yet to be fully realized,” Mr. Flurry wrote. “However, we are in the outer edges of this catastrophic storm.”
Cambodia’s decision to turn its back on the U.S. and invite China into its borders blows this “catastrophic storm” closer.
‘The Kings of the East’
Revelation 9:16 speaks of an Eastern army that will form shortly before Christ’s return. It will consist of 200 million soldiers. The largest militaries in history have consisted of about 12 million personnel. Revelation 16:12 calls this future Asian force “the kings of the east,” with the pluralized kings indicating that this will be a multinational bloc comprised of several Asian countries. Ezekiel 38 provides numerous details about this Asian military alliance, including the fact that it will be led by Russia, with China in a position of secondary leadership.
When Asian nations such as Cambodia rally behind China today, they are laying the foundation for “the kings of the east” prophecy to be fulfilled.
The Decline of ‘Israel’
World-renowned educator Herbert W. Armstrong forecast decades ago of the collapse of America’s power. Just after America’s failed invasion of Cuba in 1961, he pinned the blame not on the U.S. military or even the Kennedy administration, but on the American people: “Unless or until the United States as a whole repents and returns to what has become a hollow slogan on its dollars: ‘In God we trust,’ the United States of America has won its last war! [T]he God America has deserted gave it its most humiliating defeat! What does the Cuban debacle mean? It means, Mr. and Mrs. United States, that the handwriting is on your wall!” (Plain Truth, October 1961).
Mr. Armstrong understood that America’s might was eroding and that the country was heading for collapse because the people had deserted God. And he made his forecasts with confidence because they are based on Bible prophecy. The Bible includes a remarkably specific and recognizable forecast for the descendants of Israel, which include America. God said that if the nations of Israel rejected Him, He would “break the pride of [their] power” (Leviticus 26:19).
In the decades since Mr. Armstrong wrote those words, the people of America have hastened their desertion of God. They have hardened in their disdain for His law. And in the time since, America has inserted itself into dozens of military altercations. Each of these halfhearted campaigns has drained a little more of the country’s pride in its power.
The Cambodians see that America is deeply divided, war-weary and seemingly ashamed of its power. As a result, as with several other Asian nations, it is rallying around China.
Christ said these trends are quickly leading to a time of unparalleled global conflict and suffering when “men’s hearts” will be “failing them for fear” (Luke 21:26). But in the very next verse, He says that the conflict will conclude with the most transformative event in history: “And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (verse 27).
These devastating times of the Gentiles, the outer edges of which the world is already in, will transition directly to Jesus Christ’s return! He will usher in an age of peace and prosperity for the peoples of China, Cambodia and all countries. Regarding this future age of global peace, Isaiah 2:4 says: “[N]ation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”