Sunday, July 09, 2017


"The reality, however, is that Allison’s recipe is actually a recipe for war. Appeasement of aggressors is far more dangerous than measured confrontation. Did China become more aggressive in the South China Sea in the 2000s because the Obama administration got tougher or because it went AWOL on the issue? I’d say the latter is more likely. When it comes to China, we might want to be more mindful of the “Chamberlain Trap” after the peace-loving prime minister of England, one of the authors of the disastrous 1938 Munich agreement that sought to avoid war by concessions, which in fact taught Hitler that the British were easily fooled. That is the trap we are in urgent need of avoiding. As an intellectual exercise, let us try making the modest substitution in Allison’s argument of Europe for China. Europe — excluding Russia and some other, smaller, countries — has a land area of 3.9 million square miles, which is to say larger than the U.S. at 3.79 million. The European Union GDP is roughly $20 trillion (nominal) while that of the United States perhaps $1 trillion less. Europe had 1,823,000 forces in uniform in 2014, compared with 1,031,000 for the United States today. Where am I going? If we add educational and technical levels as well as standard of living, one might be forgiven for thinking that, by the numbers, Europe, not China, was the leading potential challenger to the United States. That of course is what the late Jean-Jacques Servan-Schrieber argued in his immensely popular and influential bit of futurology Le Défi Américan [“The American Challenge”] in 1967. It may well be that the great, almost unspoken question of this century is the future of Europe. So far, however, Europe and America have not proven “destined to war.” Nor are America and China. My late colleague and mentor Ambassador James Lilley liked to recall a lecture given by an American professor about Taiwan. The speaker became increasingly heated, declaring that unless Washington immediately yielded to Beijing’s demands about Taiwan, a nuclear war was unavoidable. A PLA general in attendance was at first puzzled, and then agitated. He turned to the ambassador to whisper a question: “Who is this guy? Does he think we are crazy?” In other words, come whatever, we Chinese are intelligent enough to realize that war — not to mention nuclear war — with the United States would be an insane action that would destroy all China has achieved in the years since Mao’s death in 1976. As I see it, it’s far more likely, but certainly not as sexy, to believe that there will be no “destined” war between China and the U.S. because the Chinese might actually have a clearer reading of history than the scholars at Harvard.... Since the attack on Scarborough Shoal, now six years ago, my own opinion is that China expected to have occupied a lot more. Her slightly delusional view of her claims, first made explicit in ASEAN’s winter meeting of 2010 in Hanoi, was that “small” countries would all bow respectfully to China’s new preeminence. This has failed to occur. All of China’s neighbors are now building up strong military capabilities. Japanese and South Korean nuclear weapons are even a possibility. Overrelying on their traditional concept of awesomeness (威 wēi), the Chinese expected a cakewalk. They have got instead an arms race with neighbors including Japan and other American allies and India, too. With so much firepower now in place, the danger of accident, pilot error, faulty command and control, etc. must be considered. But I’d wager that the Chinese would smother an unintended conflict. They are, after all, not idiots".
Arthur Waldron, "There is no Thucydides Trap". Supchina. 7 June 2017, in
"Britain, the former colonial overlord, has raised concerns about such encroachments, warning China to abide by its commitment to allow the territory a “high degree of autonomy” — a promise enshrined in the 1984 Sino-British Joint Declaration signed by then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher and Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang.  Beijing hit back last week. Lu Kang, foreign ministry spokesman, said that “the arrangements during the transitional period prescribed in the Sino-British Joint Declaration are now history and of no practical significance”. He added: “The British side has no sovereignty, no power to rule and supervise Hong Kong after the handover.”  Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London, described that statement as 'much bigger than Hong Kong . . . If the Chinese government can choose to relegate an international agreement with the UK to the ‘dustbin of history’ when it no longer suits China, can any other government which has signed an international agreement have confidence that the Chinese government will honour it?'"
Ben Bland, "Xi visit exposes gulf between Beijing and Hong Kong". The Financial Times. 2 July 2017, in
Arthur Waldron's piece excellently demonstrates again that appeasing Peking is absolutely the wrong way to approach the Peoples Republic diplomatically. That by either overlooking or in fact ignoring, the Peoples Republic consistently aggressive behavior towards its neighbors is something which will merely increase its likelihood of engaging in said behavior. The example cited above about its policies in Hong Kong are a perfect example showing that left to itself, Peking will quite willing break any treaties or understandings with other countries when it can do so. And leave no doubt: all the talk about the PRC having some valid interests in either the South China Seas or towards the Senkaku Islands is nonsensical in the extreme. Per contra to Lord Palmerston, there are no 'permanent interests'. In the case of Peking, its domestic political imperative need to trumpet extreme nationalism, provides the rationale for its policies in both locations mentioned herein. It is for example quite likely that a different regime in power in Peking would be quite willing to drop claims to both locations as said regime's legitimacy would be based upon something other than a self-induced extreme nationalism. History provides too many examples of states which gave up what were perceived as 'permanent interests' (in some cases for centuries), due to changes in the domestic political regime. Germany and East / West Prussia and Silesia. Poland and Lviv and Vilnius. France and Algeria. Italia and Libya. Serbia and Kosovo. Russia and its former empire in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as the Baltic States. The United States and the Panama Canal. The United Kingdom and Ireland. The list could go on and on. My larger point is that the best policy to follow towards Peking is a Kennanesque policy of containment, which will eventually result in a change in the internal domestic regime of the PRC. And once that occurs, then we will see a shift not only towards Peking's claims in the South China Seas and the Senkaku Islands, but even towards Formosa and Tibet. I will leave the last words for Alan Freidberg, who is perhaps the most intelligent commentator on American policy towards the PRC in the American academic monde:
"Even as it continues to engage China, the United States must work with its friends and allies to maintain a margin of military advantage sufficient to deter attempts at coercion or aggression. Assuming that China's power continues to grow, this will require even greater exertion and closer cooperation in the future than it has in the past....Without active cooperation from its regional partners, Washington cannot hope in the long run to balance against a rising China. On the other hand, without tokens of its continuing commitment and resolve. America's friends may grow fearful of abandonment, perhaps eventually losing heart and succumbing to the temptations of appeasement. A serious response to China's military buildup is therefore vital both for its own sake and for its potentially spine-stiffening effects on others 1."
1. Aaron L. Friedberg. A contest for Supremacy. (2011). pp. 274-275.


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