China, South China Sea and Statecraft: China and Self Induced US Straightjacket

China, South China Sea and Statecraft: China and Self Induced US Straightjacket

Shuchun Zhang, Noriko Watanabe and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


Political statecraft is a rich art in China because the “Middle Kingdom” faced many geopolitical and religious realities that threatened on several fronts. Therefore, it is time for modern China to understand that demands over certain sea boundary claims are unrealistic. Of equal importance, if China doesn’t want to play into the hands of America, then greater diplomacy is needed.

President Obama, just like past American leaders, seeks to implement a containment policy by stealth (not in name) aimed at China outside the sphere of economics. Of course, America fully understands the growing economic rise of China and clearly American companies desire a slice of the “Chinese apple pie.” However, true to the nature of political elites in Washington, then powerful nations that don’t abide by America’s foreign policy objectives will face an “American straight-jacket” when the time is right.

Unlike the old days whereby America would utilize its armed forces, for example the Korean War in the distant past, to Vietnam and recent ventures in Iraq and Libya; then clearly Washington understands the limitations of military might. Indeed, Iran is now more important to Baghdad than Washington given the current threat from ISIS (Islamic State – IS). On top of this, in nations like Libya then a clear mess was left behind whereby poverty is increasing, international jihadists are entering the vacuum and America negates all responsibility. Yet, new systems are being utilized and coordinated together like social media, political arm twisting of allies to create economic sanctions, manipulating political blocs, destabilization policies and topping this with media attacks.

Also, America can always play the “Muslim card” in Western China, use so-called democratic leverages in Hong Kong, fuel political discontent based on mass communications – and other important areas like Tibet. This reality means that elites in Beijing should develop stronger relations with all regional nations where possible in order to stem any future regional ratlines. Given this reality, China should think more seriously and deeply about claims over sea boundary claims when they appear threatening to other nations. After all, is opening-up many cans of worms in the interest of China?

The Paracels is in “no mans land” and clearly nations should be open to dialogue with regards to sharing – or making mutual compromises – or going to arbitration based on a court decision. Yet for China to claim the Spratlys and claimed territorial waters near to Indonesia and the Philippines is brazen at best. Similarly, territorial waters claimed by China near Vietnam appear menacing.

The BBC reports: “The Nine-Dash line is a boundary which China uses to demarcate its claims in the South China Sea…The Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia and Japan have competing claims in the area.”

In Vietnam last year you had anti-China riots based on the insensitivity of political elites in Beijing. Likewise, China isn’t willing to take its claim to the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration that the Philippines demands in order to solve the crisis. Therefore, China is playing into the hands of America’s “straightjacket policy.” Also, other nations like Japan will gain at the expense of “The Middle Kingdom.”

China therefore needs to be open to greater regional dialogue in the area of sea boundaries and territorial water claims. If not, then political elites in Beijing are assisting America if a future situation arises based on self-inflicted geopolitical mistakes. At the same time, China will enable America to re-boost its posture and military alignments with an array of regional nations.


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