China - U.S. at a Greats Powers stand-off on the Western Pacifique
The challenges in western pacific with the U.S. navy and the maritime delimitation’s issues with Japan has shown the determination of China’s politician as to their defense of territorial sovereignty and national integrity.
Philip Stephens writes about the inevitability of a clash between U.S. and China over the years due to the new status of China and the difficulty of the U.S. to abandon the privileges of its primacy.
China’s rise has come faster than its own leadership imagined, in part because of the immense damage inflicted on the west by the 2008 financial crash. Beijing now has to learn what it means to be a great power. This is not meant to sound patronising. Rather it is a description of reality. After two centuries, first as a victim of, and then largely a bystander at, global events, China has emerged in the space of a couple of decades as second only to the US.
This is not as easy as it sounds, especially since pretty much everyone else in the neighbourhood would have preferred things to have remained as they were. China is discovering that, like its neighbours, it too must adjust to China’s rise. I caught a small glimpse of this in the Xiangshan discussions. The PLA was founded as a land force to defend Chinese territory against external aggression. Now the generals are slashing troop numbers as they look to build expeditionary reach with naval and air power. This is what rising powers do. Yet I have the impression they are puzzling about how to make the transition.
Likewise, the nation’s civilian policymakers often struggle to find the balance between assertion of what they see as China’s rightful claims and recognition that rising powers need to reassure. To western ears, there is a dissonance between loud proclamations of inalienable sovereignty over disputed territory and quiet assurances, heard many times at the forum, that Beijing will never use military force in order to prevail.
What marks out President Xi Jinping from his predecessors is his determination at once to concentrate his personal authority at home — the old collective leadership has been dismantled — and project power abroad. The land reclamation works in the South China Sea are one manifestation of the latter aim; to my mind, the One Belt, One Road strategy to build Chinese influence across Eurasia is a still more ambitious one……
Beijing has a point when it says that things cannot stay the same. Its strongest argument is also the simplest: the world has changed. The range and complexity of China’s economic and security interests have multiplied. Like other great powers, it must assume a role in policing the global commons. To say that the old balance must not be disturbed is to defy the facts of geopolitics. You cannot look at the 21st century through the eyes of the 20th. Oh, and when last did a rising power not seek control over its coastal waters?
Yet it is equally natural that Beijing’s ambitions jar with the US. America’s presence in East Asia has been the guarantor of regional peace. What is more, the US is an East Asian power by invitation. China’s neighbouring states have been asking for a bigger not a smaller US presence. Vietnam is cross because Washington will not sell it sufficiently sophisticated weaponry. Think about it. The big criticism from most regional powers of President Barack Obama’s pivot to Asia is that it has been too timid.
East Asia will not stay the same for the simple reason that China’s rise has remade the landscape. America cannot hold on to a primacy that has already been lost. But nor can China claim its own hegemony. A new order must accommodate both.”
The inevitability of a collision or of the said accommodation of conflicting interests will have to be played on the interdependence of their mutual development and the politics associated with this.