As the Middle East burns and the struggle with Russia limps along, U.S. policymakers should not lull themselves into thinking that the situation in Asia is likely work itself out. On the contrary, a prominent Asia scholar predicts, look for more of the same, and then some:
China has blamed the United States for causing trouble with its neighbours in order to try to “contain” China’s rise.But asked about a Fairfax report about Australia and India drawing closer together, Shi Yinhong, Professor of International Relations at People’s University, said it was “natural” for those nations to form a “strategic coalition” with others including Japan and the US in response to the strengthening of China and expansion of Chinese naval activity.The result, he said, was that leaders on all sides were locked into self-reinforcing cycles of aggression, with US-anchored “defensive” coalitions perceived to be “offensive” in Beijing.Whether or not China’s strategy was counterproductive, Professor Shi said Beijing’s strategic calculus would not change.He said China would continue on its trajectory because of popular nationalism, dynamics within the armed forces “and of course also our top leaders’ personal beliefs and strategic personalities”.
As the article notes, tensions have ramped up markedly with President Xi Jinping’s assumption of power. But though it’s easy to conclude that this is just the product of a bold new leader aggressively charting the course for a rising power, it’s just as plausible that this is the behavior of a leadership that believes its house is collapsing from within.Either way, we hope the Obama Administration is watching closely even as the world erupts in chaos elsewhere. This looks like just the beginning of a long and dangerous process in East Asia.