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  • Sep 24, 2014
  • Updated: 5:08am
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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Pierce m'boy, you're using some big words there, and you clearly don't understand what they mean. You really should stick to what you're good at, which is kissing CCP butt, and making me laugh. Take heart, m'boy: the stuff you're good at, you're REALLY good at. That's an achievement of sorts, and you should be proud. I'm happy for you.
Otherwise, you should learn to read (and write). I've listed 2 factors, so there is no "the only". There is only so much I can help you with, and clearly you're in need of substantial amounts in multiple areas of your life.
I'm glad you're at least mentioning logical fallacies now. That's the first step. The next step would be to learn what they are. And if you're really good, the step after that is to not use them. Good luck. Given enough time, I don't doubt there being a remote possibility that you might be able to perhaps grow a brain that at least functions at a middling level. I'm rooting for you, m'boy.
In the meantime, it's clear you blow even at talking smack, and can't seem to write with normal human sentence structure to save your life. Just think, all those years you spent learning the CCP religion could've been gainfully applied to something more useful. Alas, what's done is done, and you're stuck with being you. You have my deepest sympathies.
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.
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?
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.
Where’s the writing factory
of all these monotonous verbal rondo
repeating a distorted theme
where the word “China” is wrongly made to usurp
the places where “Japan” is the right word
Why the paranoia of all these westerners?
Given their European background
they fear a strong China would treat them
like they used to treat the Jews
They fear losing the remnants of past centuries’ privileges
They are jealous of China’s ascendance
Marginalized from their home countries
those diasporas who lack real skills fear for their future
Expat perks that have turned them dumb are disappearing
They know not to compete in the real world
That’s why they are mumbling nonsense in despair
This column seems to consist entirely of wishful thinking.

If it was merely security (from what exactly by the way?) China is after, it would seek (NATO-style) alliances in Asia, sign defence pacts, diffuse regional tensions, seek compromises, negotiate skilfully, promote diplomacy, invest in building soft power and so on. You only have to look at Brazil to see another regional power that is growing fast and is much bigger/powerful than any of its neighbours handle its (re)emergence very differently, and more peacefully.

Instead, China displays an arrogant sense of infinite entitlement to its neighbours, seemingly wanting to re-establish its Middle Kingdom status, to which all of its Asian satellites must pay tribute and kowtow in fear. There appears to be no room for compromise, negotiation or even just a hint of understanding that not everybody agrees that some lines on a 19th century map constitute valid territorial or nautical claims.

The establishment of the very oddly shaped air defence zone with the Senkaku Islands and the adjacent oil/gas reserves as only logical centrepiece, is just the latest instalment in a series of increasingly aggressive moves by the PLA. We unfortunately see a China that appears to be motivated by nationalism, (real and perceived) historical grievances and relatively minor geo-political interests. All of this lessons, not increases China's security.

Martin Wolf was entirely correct to state that this is a dangerous trend.
The "great game" of international politics has lots of she says/he says -- just like divorce litigation. What to one party is understandably "self-defense" to another is naturally "aggression." It depends on one's particular national perspective. The basic fact is that the legitimate interests of China's security do very much include disrupting the USA-Japan Alliance and driving the USA out and away from northeast Asia. This is appropriately one of the fundamental goals of China's foreign policy, which also naturally seeks to consistently counter the USA globally. For the PLA, it is axiomatic that a weaker USA means a safer China. Covertly/overtly and directly/indirectly, China has understandably and legitimately been working steadily to weaken the USA's global posture, at the very least since --- the 1989 collapse of Communism in Eastern Europe and the events in Tiananmen Square; and the 1991 Revolution in Military Affairs (first Iraq War) and the fall of the Soviet Union. 1989-1991 was an especially scary time for the leadership of the Communist Party of China. They then initiated or enhanced a range of long-term strategies to deal effectively with real or perceived USA threats to China. Just one such legitimate expedient was China's hidden role in furthering North Korea's development of nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them. Make no mistake, even today the "crazy" Kims still serve China big-time by exposing the sheer emptiness of the USA alliances in the region.
China belongs on a psychiatrist's couch. It's obsessed with security, but who is its enemy? Are there any countries that are attempting to steal Chinese territory? No. Beijing is just paranoid. And it never gave a damn about the territory of the many other countries whose territory has been violated throughout their history by Chinese colonialists
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
Readers without background knowledge
can’t appreciate AL’s perceptive analysis
Instead of ignorant elaboration
they should read How About (5, Dec 10:16am)
to clear the ground for meaningful discussion
Logic is necessarily objective
Opinions based on personal preferences are fantasies
which the shallow and ignorant would sell and buy as arguments
under the misleading banner of “informal logic”
which along with the use of BIG words
give the fool a false sense of “authority”
The mogician has nothing
but fast empty “proofs” for prejudice
Here's one example
“the specificS of this zone CLEARLY point to other motivationS”
specificS refer to China’s ADIZ overlapping Japan’s and covering Diaoyu Islands
motivationS refer to natural resources
Such foolish associations need no refutation
Logic goes on holiday if every English speaker becomes a logician
The only defense of one such particularly noisy English-speaking mogician
is by way of adhom,
like a disoriented old fool whining
“m’boy, m‘boy”




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