China’s brinksmanship with Japan in the Diaoyu Islands crisis, which took an elevated turn last week, reflects a broader assertiveness over territorial issues that has put the PRC at odds with a number of its neighbors recently. Tensions have run high with the Philippines since the summer, when one Chinese ship rammed a fishing boat and another ran aground on a reef in the South China Sea. Beijing has interfered with Vietnam’s attempts to pursue oil exploration in the disputed waters, prompting public demonstrations in Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City earlier this month. And controversial new passports issued by China – containing a map which incorporates the long tongue of the South China Sea and even the Himalayas as part of its territory – have prompted diplomatic countermeasures across the region.
Writing for The National Interest, James Clad and Robert A. Manning claim that Beijing’s provocative moves have backfired:
A joke now making the rounds in Asia asks, “who is America’s most effective diplomat in Asia?” The punch line brings knowing laughter: “‘Mr. Beijing.’ Yes, Mr. Bob Beijing is playing America’s best hand.”
The joke’s sting lies in the law of unintended consequences. Beijing’s increasingly provocative moves include cutting a Vietnamese seismic-exploration ship’s cables, disrupting oil exploration, declaring the entire South China Sea under Chinese sovereignty and making some hitherto unpublicized but very sensitive challenges to Malaysia. All seem tailor-made to produce exactly what China says it doesn’twant: a de facto anti-China coalition backed discreetly by the United States and reaching from India to the Sea of Japan.
As if to put an exclamation point on it, the Philippine foreign minister recently said that if Japan rearmed and abandoned its pacifist constitution, Manila “would welcome that very much.”
Meanwhile, The Diplomat’s Minxin Pei suggests a few steps China can
« Back to Article