As the article states, intra-Asian diplomacy is what’s going to hold the key. The more time that’s wasted by the United States in taking a clear stand, the more likely Japan will try to come to terms with China on its own. Coming to terms could also eventually lead into an Asian economic and security bloc with China as the umbrella protectorate.
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s whirlwind tour of China in early April saw a tense exchange with his Chinese counterpart Chang Wanquan over the United States’ pivot to Asia. China would “make no compromise, no concession, no treaty,” Chang said, adding, “the Chinese military can assemble as soon as summoned, fight any battle and win.”
Hagel, for his part, said that the United States was “fully committed” to is treaty obligations with the Philippines and with Japan — which administers the Senkakus, the disputed islands which China claims and calls the Diaoyu. In the days leading up to U.S. President Barack Obama’s late April trip to the region, where is visiting Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, and Malaysia — and pointedly not China — there is a worrying amount of strain among China, Japan, and the United States. Are temperatures running so high that China might actually seize the Senkakus by force? Or are these worries overblown?
We asked contributors to assess the risks in relations among China, Japan and the United States.
Ely RatnerSenior Fellow and Deputy Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security
China’s policy — exemplified by Chang’s remarks at a joint press conference with Hagel –has sought to put the onus on the United States to rein in Japan and the Philippines, which Beijing views as the United States’ emboldened and adventurous allies, while meanwhile trying to prop up U.S.-China ties as more consequential and important than the United States’ other relations in the region. This approach neatly places the United States as both the source of and the cure for instability in maritime Asia.
But, if anything, China’s leaders learned from Hagel’s visit that its “new model” of relations with Washington actually may backfire in this regard. The United States is not going to temper its alliance commitments for the sake of advancing Chinese sovereignty claims. Instead, the implicit message in Hagel’s remarks in Beijing was that China is going to have to take responsibility for its own actions.
Much to Beijing’s disappointment, if you want to know if cooler heads will prevail, you’ll have to look at intra-Asian diplomacy, regardless of whether the United States and China successfully forge a “new model” of military relations.
Hugh White Professor of Strategic Studies in the Strategic and Defence Studies Center at the Australian National University.
The strategic risks today between the United States, Japan and China are very real, because the stakes for each country are very high, and the scope for misunderstanding is very great. We must look behind the day-to-day diplomacy of the kind we saw with Hagel’s visit and look at what drives the players.
First, the stakes. Needless to say, none of the players really cares about the Senkakus/Diaoyu islands themselves. For Tokyo, the dispute is all about Japan’s ability to avoid being subordinated to China’s growing power, and the credibility of the United States alliance to help prevent that. For Washington, it is all about preserving the United States’ role as the arbiter of regional order and the preponderant maritime power in Asia. For Beijing, it is all about asserting a new and bigger role for China in Asia, creating a new regional order in which China is at least America’s equal: a new model of great power relations.
This makes both Japan’s and China’s conduct quite clear. China is using the dispute to demonstrate that it is now strong enough to compel Japan to make concessions in a way that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago, and to erode Japan’s confidence in U.S. support.Japan is determined to resist any concessions to China, to show that it remains strong enough, with U.S. help, to resist China’s pressure.
This means that both Japan and China have an interest in seeing the United States face a binary choice between supporting Japan and stepping back from confrontation with China. Tokyo wants Washington to prove unambiguously that it will not sacrifice Japanese interests in order to avoid a rift with Beijing. Beijing wants to show Japan-and the rest of Asia-that America is no longer willing to defend their interests against China’s growing power.
Full article: Chinese Military Can ‘Fight Any Battle and Win’ (Foreign Policy)