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Asia's Game of Thrones
Beijing Snarls at South China Sea Pushback

Beijing’s territorial plays in the South China Sea, especially its land reclamation efforts, are provoking a lot of pushback. Earlier today, we wrote about how Japan is bolstering the anti-China coalition by joining U.S.-Australian military exercises and strengthening its defense ties with Malaysia, as well as with Vietnam and the Philippines. On top of that, the U.S. has ordered its ships and aircraft to ignore what China claims are legitimate exclusion zones around its artificial islands, of which there are currently seven, including at least one airbase. The Chinese legal claims, we have mentioned, are shaky at best.

Beijing is reacting to the backlash furiously. Even as it blasted U.S. flights over its land reclamation projects in the Spratlys as “provocative behavior” that could lead to open conflict, it released a new military doctrine whitepaper, the eighth since 1998. The document (which you can read in English in full here) stresses a shift away from a military designed strictly for territorial defense to one that is able to project power on the high seas, in cyberspace, and in outer space. Here’s a chunk on naval power from China’s mouthpiece, the Global Times:

The Chinese navy kept troops close to land from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s under the strategy of inshore defense. Since the 1980s, the Navy has realized a strategic transformation to offshore defensive operations.

The shift in the PLA Navy’s focus to a combination of “offshore waters defense and open seas protection” is essential as China is facing rising challenges from the sea and the country is more reliant on maritime resources and energy, said Yu Miao, another AMS researcher.

The traditional mentality that control of the land is more important than control of the sea must be abandoned, and great importance has to be attached to managing the seas and oceans and protecting maritime rights and interests, said the paper.

The PLA Navy will enhance its capabilities for strategic deterrence and counterattack, maritime maneuvers, joint operations at sea, comprehensive defense and comprehensive support.

With China’s foes banding together, the U.S. getting much more involved, and Southeast Asian countries going on a naval shopping spree, tensions are spiking. Everyone is betting China will back off if its faced with enough opposition. But so far, Beijing is not showing any signs that it’s about to blink. In fact, it’s digging in.

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  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The Chinese are being stupid, they are angering all of the nations that sit on ALL of their shipping lanes. 40% of China’s economy is dependent on the import export trade, and if they were embargoed their economy would die.
    Maybe they realize that they have reached limits of a foreign investor built economy (foreign investors are no longer building state of the art factories in China), and that there’s no where left to go but down. The Chinese economy lacks the necessary “Feedback of Competition” that forces continuous improvements in Quality, Service, and Price in a Free Market. And because of this fact, China isn’t world class at anything, and they don’t have a single recognizable worldwide name brand like Microsoft, Apple, Intel, Google, Sony, Toyota, Samsung, etc… So, if they start a war, they can blame the bad economy on their enemies and generate support for their regime, and avoid being hung from the lampposts in a revolution (a very real fear to the Chinese Leadership).

    • AaronL

      The Chinese , as well as the Russians and Iranians, realize that America has at the moment a uniquely leftist, incompetant and weak President and intend to exploit this window of opportunity for the next 20 months. They don’t know who the next President will be so they will accelerate their efforts until then and try to make irreversible gains. The next 20 months will qualify as “interesting times” in line with the old Chinese curse.

      • Blackbeard


      • ltlee1

        Don’t know about Russia and Iran. But China under Xi has decided not to have war with the US, may be forever. Hence it offers to be America’s strategic partner. However, at least some US leaders still have war with China on their minds. It refuses.

    • Boritz

      They have a growth rate of 7% vs. 0.2% for the U.S.

    • ltlee1

      I dare say you don’t know much about China and Chinese.
      “Americans don’t learn about the world, they don’t study world history, other than American history in a very one-sided fashion, and they don’t study geography.” “In that context of widespread ignorance, the ongoing and deliberately fanned fear about the outside world,…”

      Chinese propaganda? Hardly. The above were foreign policy hawk, Bzrzenski’s words. Check it out yourself.

      As for Chinese economy lacks the necessary “feedback of competition” that forces continuous improvement…”, Deutsche Bahn which operates large railway network in Germany does not agree with you. The headline of yesterday’s news article was “Deutsche Bahn eyes shopping spree in China”.

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