Monday, June 1, 2015

Chinese assertiveness in the South China Sea

Until I am finally able to put myself into their shoes, for the last few years I could not understand what China was trying to achieve from aggressively asserting themselves in the South China Sea. I mean it was overall bad for everyone's security and business, including theirs. China I realized was looking far ahead into the future.

As China's economic wealth continues to grow, we blithely forget that they would feel insecure unless their commercial interests are also protected to a similar degree the American also protects theirs. By then it would be trading so much everywhere and everyone's else problem have a way of impacting Chinese interests and finding its way back to Beijing. At that time China must have the wherewithal to protect her interests.

Can you imagine a foreign navy sailing up and down hugging on either coast of the USA even though it is in international waters? Apply the same touchiness America would have to China. For historical reasons America was committed to defend Japan but the relationship trajectory with China is completely different.

All these is well and good but how is everything going to play out? To me the Chinese will keep taking the initiative whilst its Asian neighbors and America only react. The Chinese only need to keep it up as much as others will bear without firing any shot and over a very long time like if I may borrow from thermal physics, isothermally expand to where they want.

In any engagement it seems to me that the non-Chinese side is more nervous than the Chinese. The Chinese are trying to gain and the non-Chinese trying to resist. Therefore ASEAN is far more eager to have a Code of Conduct in place but why would the Chinese want to tie their hands signing up to one? They would still in the end but only when it suits them. As their maritime presence grows and more tactical options become available there would be a point which they would gladly commit to a Code of Conduct.

It is smarter to plan for a strong and powerful China tomorrow and even wiser to help that come about in a manner which we would be happy to live with. Outside of China, I wonder which countries is as farseeing and working towards that. Sure, we must resist Chinese assertiveness but let's do it we finesse and a happy ending in mind. Not reacting as like now but with shrewd calculations where losing is winning in disguise because China will get what she wants in the end.

Meanwhile there will be many anxious and nervous moments at sea to come but that is part of the game. If played well business will eventually understand and discount that. Along the way China must match its assertiveness with other constructive regional initiatives. The AIIB initiative is a good example.

Update: 4:35 pm

The Americans are irritated with what is developing in our neck of woods. Truth is others were reclaiming land around the islands they claimed even before the Chinese.

If you want to the Chinese to stop, the others must do the same. I do not know if the Chinese will do the same but even if they do, it would most likely only be a hiatus.

Every time you are sleeping and not vigilant the Chinese make progress toward what they want.

In this game whoever takes the initiative and patiently apply themselves over many years will come out the winner.

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