• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 2:58am
My Take
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 4:27am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 December, 2013, 4:27am

Security, not power, is Beijing's goal in air defence zone dispute

"The gains from control over a few uninhabited rocks are vastly outweighed by the risks."

Here's a comment by a respected British commentator that perfectly summarises the bafflement of outsiders about China's territorial disputes in the South and East China Seas. Face, nationalism, historical grievances, anti-Americanism, anti-Japanese sentiments, regional dominance or hegemony ... Critics have marshalled one or more of these elements to explain China's behaviour. Or, China is Germany 1914 all over again. Funny how no one ever cited Bismarck's unified Germany after 1870, whose diplomacy secured European peace for a generation.

To a disinterested observer, all those China "explanations" must seem unconvincing or unsatisfying. First, is Beijing staking its foreign policy on nationalist feelings over the Diaoyu Islands? Or is it the other way around: the nationalist/historical issue over the Diaoyus is only part of an overall foreign policy - but doesn't drive or explain it? One thing you know for sure is that imposing an "air defence identification zone" that includes the Diaoyus is not an ad hoc, one- step-at-a-time dumb chess move. It's part of an overall strategic conception with its own goal, purpose and rationale.

Let's start with the Hobbesian thesis: every country feels threatened or insecure; China especially so. Despite its new-found wealth, its military can't fight overseas other than invading Taiwan. Its shipping and supply lanes are patrolled by a powerful rival, the US, and it's encircled geographically by countries allied to the US. Its hold on Tibet and Xinjiang are constantly challenged. It can buy client states in Africa and Latin America but has no genuine defence allies. The overwhelming foreign policy goal of Beijing is therefore not dominance but security. Within this framework, sometimes it goes along with other world powers, such as over Iran's and North Korea's nuclear ambitions; sometimes it provokes them, such as with the air defence zone. Sometimes, it just miscalculates. So is China a status quo or revisionist power? The best answer is: it doesn't want to overthrow the US-led international security and economic architecture, but demands adjustments within it.

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ennoun
Security from what or from whom? Is there someone getting ready to attack China? Or are the billions being spent to strengthen the country's military in order to support China's expansionary policies?
pslhk
Hear, hear!
-
Again the disoriented old fool whines “Pierce m’boy”
mistaking Heron’s “a potential motivating factor”
as THE only factor
and the referred article’s “not simply a question”
as the ONLY question
-
In addition to cognitive confusion
there are symptoms of reality denial and schizophrenia
avoiding factual agreements at Cairo, Potsdam, …
indulging in the opposites of what he preaches
-
To save himself from argumentative bankruptcy
from champion of logical simplicity for intellectuality
and crusader against adhom
66? has become nothing but irrelevant prolixity and adhom
-
Is mogician a status of Borelli or are they different persons?
-
Probably just the incarnation of 66 man u a low-ranking devil
working in a factory of disinformation
321manu
Pierce m'boy, as the CCP's puppy-in-tow, seems to believe that any published opinion (at least those that coincide with his own) represents the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth (with the caveat of course that anything the CCP says is also similarly truthful and irrefutable). Notice how he attached himself so quickly here to Mr. Lo's point of view, and his eagerness to refer to another article on this website (not to mention another user's comments...I wonder if Pierce wants to be 'How About' 's "friend". Pierce has certainly extended his friendship given his glowing reference to How's comment; I wonder if the sentiment will be reciprocated?).
Anyway, in that vein, Pierce m'boy should check out SCMP article 1096774. Normally I'd say it might be an eye-opener, but I simply can't assume that Pierce m'boy is physically capable of same.
321manu
I agree with Heron and jve. Playing the nationalism card is low-hanging fruit for the CCP, and it does provide a nice diversion for Chinese hotheads to focus on, rather than worrying about domestic issues. That "us against them" mentality is standard fare among authoritarian regimes, so the CCP is in good company. Add on the historical baggage and the victim mentality, and it's a pot that stirs itself.
I wouldn't necessarily say China is being arrogant. Ultimately, stoking nationalism is a temporary feel-good reprieve, but it's the resources under the sea floor that CHina really needs. So from a practical standpoint, this posturing on all sides makes no sense, in that it guarantees nothing comes out of the ground. I mean, who really cares about a bunch of uninhabitable outcroppings in the middle of the sea? They should just form a multinational conglomerate, and get moving with resource exploration with an agreement to share the materials, costs, and profits.
And as Jve said, how exactly is some random funny-shaped ADIZ supposed to "increase security"? Only idiots would buy such nonsense, right Pierce?
Heron
Jve mentions Nationalism as a potential motivating factor in China's assertion of their territorial rights and I believe that is correct. Creating conflict with rival nations has been used as a tactic by many nations in the past to divert attention from problems at home,
Although it may be hard to believe for a country with a 6% growth rate, China is at an economic crossroads. In the past, as the world's factory, foreign currency flooded into the state's treasury and China's economy grew nicely, but after the 2008-9 crisis demand for Chinese goods dwindled and so did income. The state increased domestic investment to stoke growth, but this has led to diminishing returns as the system is very leaky and many infrastructure investments will not generate consist economic returns for some time. There are also consistent concerns about inflation, pollution, aging population etc. Finally, while China still has big foreign exchange reserves, this is counterbalanced by huge non-performing loans owed by state-owned enterprises, local government and by failing private companies competing in a saturated market. The government can't keep pumping money into the economy. Fortunately, they recognize the problems, but need time to fix them by stamping out corruption and creating social safety nets such a comprehensive health and pensions enabling people to spend more and create domestic demand.
Let's just hope that by provoking their neighbours like this we don't end up with a war.
pslhk
I’ve been trying to write
interesting english like yours
Freedom of speech is never enough
to accommodate a boundless freethinker like you
scmp should be proud
for having a reader like you
Your nuts expertise is undoubted
BO and DC should appoint you
as a permanent resident advisor of nut houses
321manu
You really do have delusions of adequacy and of intelligence. Man, why is it that the CCP is always supported by people of such low intellect, poor logic, and aversion towards independent thought. It's as though someone with a brain could never qualify to be a CCP apologist...nor would they want to, I suspect.
If you threw a ball off a boat, you couldn't hit water. So worry not, Pierce m'boy, your "capabilities" are of no concern to me. Why would anyone be intimidated by empty space? I have no doubt you're a physical entity; intellectually, you're of no consequence to me.
Anyway, what I believe to be true wrt this topic was already included in my initial comment. I'd suggest that you read more carefully, but that assumes the ability to read to begin with. And if you're reading comprehension is on par with your written composition, that assumption would be a flawed one.
But yes, I'm glad that last thread closed with whymak's comment. Nice way to highlight his "logic" where people can be asked to prove a negative. Like I said, CCP apologists are people too...just not very intelligent or educated ones.
321manu
LOL, you really are a CCP butt kisser of the highest order. From that article you quoted, "Beijing insists it has the right to set up the zone, as a means of self-defence,". And because that's what Beijing says, that's what you believe? Dude, I've got several bridges that I'm sure you'd love to buy. I'd write it off to simply being incredibly naive and gullible, but being that it's you, I think it's again just the CCP apologist DNA shining through. As I said before, the penetrance of that genotype can be astounding.
I guess that's what you call "background knowledge"...stuff that only idiots would believe hook/line/sinker. I had you pegged in that category all along, but I hadn't labelled Mr. Lo necessarily as such. It's unfortunate you had to besmirch his good name.
Anyway, you're allowed to have your opinion, of course. Crazy stupid CCP apologists are people too, after all.
lexishk
Looks to me like by "best answer" you mean "best guess". Sorry but I don't find this any more convincing than the many other theories you've mentioned. Of course the truth is most likely a combination.
singleline
China’s important economic coastal cities must be well protected. It’s almost a matter of life and death. Whether China can fully enforce the right to the zone is another matter.
It’s stupid to start a military conflict because too many human lives and too much economic wealth are at stake.
Besides ‘threatening’ our Asian neighbours through the air DEFENCE zones, China can at the same time buy Asian friends using money. Please read Hu Shuli’s article ‘China will benefit from investing in others’ infrastructure development’ published this morning.
As an emergency measure (say to prepare for a sudden QE taper), swap lines should also be set up between China and other Asian neighbours. Please visit ****www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/katharina-pistor-crticizes-the-new-great-divide-in-international-monetary-management.
Now China certainly needs a Bismarck-like leader.

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