Eyes of the Fleet

Eyes of the Fleet

Thursday, July 14, 2016

South China Sea: Face Time

The headline says it all: South China Sea: China’s desperate bid to save face:
But China occupies a unique position in the world, and its rapid expansion in trade and construction comes alongside a hierarchical view of the world in which it wants to control the supply chain and assert itself against the West, according to Euan Graham, east Asian security expert and International Security Director at the Lowy Institute.

Most importantly, the nation will not want to lose face.

Its chest-beating has only escalated as the United States proceeds with intimidatory Freedom of Navigation exercises in the South China Sea.

“We’ve got to come to terms with the fact China is a bigger country we’ve got to work with,” Asialink’s International Director Tony Milner told news.com.au. “We have to accommodate it in a way that doesn’t damage us too much. People in the region are realistic about this.”

If that sounds weak, Professor Milner notes that in the past, the US and the UK were the large uncontrollable nations selfishly pursuing their own interests. “China remembers,” he added.

The rest of the world may not want to be too hasty in attacking and shaming China, or aligning with the US.
Yes, that "100 years of humiliation" card and the blustery words of the Chinese government in seeking legitimacy have created a dilemma for both China and the rest of the world.

Especially since China sees that the modern rules of international relations were made while it was sleeping - or turning inward, as the case may be.

Nice shot there in that last quoted paragraph - the U.S. was involved in a great deal of things that it may now look back on with regret - but we helped the Chinese fight the Japanese in WWII and by opening extensive trade relations have helped propel them into the 21st Century. That their rickety government isn't prepared for the sort of freedom that is required to continue that prosperity is not the fault of either the U.S. or the U.K.

As has been seen recently, China's neighbors are not going to sit idly by while China runs roughshod throughout the region. If China wants to save "face" it needs to do some fast fence-mending.

UPDATE: Baby steps - see here.

UPDATE2: Good stuff here:
A former U.S. commander told lawmakers Wednesday that the tribunal's ruling has provided a clear legal foundation for Washington to take a position on the dispute. Dennis Blair, a former commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said Washington should declare its willingness to use military force to oppose Chinese aggression at the disputed land features off the coast of the Philippines.
China is now caught between taking a hard line on safeguarding its territorial claims in the disputed South China Sea and finding a diplomatic way out of the international impasse, analysts say. Too hard of a line, such as the declaration of an air defense identification zone, will hurt China's already tarnished image around Asia, where it officially seeks to be a good neighbor.

"It is highly likely that China will undertake a show of military force to underline its sovereignty, but such measures will only aggravate China's battered image globally," Tang Siew Mun, a senior fellow at the regional strategic and political studies program under the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, wrote in an emailed reply to VOA.

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