The tanking Chinese stock market may have strengthened the opposition to President Xi Jinping, but Beijing is still pursuing its regional ambitions. Australian analysts say that Beijing is fast solidifying its hold on territory in the South China Sea, the Sydney Morning Herald reports:
China has won the first round of its contest for control in the South China Sea by completing construction of an archipelago of artificial islands, say senior Australian sources.
And there is little that will stop China from winning the next round, too, as an indecisive US Administration and allies including Australia struggle to follow through on earlier promises to challenge unlawful Chinese claims with “freedom of navigation” exercises, the sources say.
By 2017, military analysts expect China will have equipped its new sand islands with ports, barracks, battlements, artillery, air strips and long-range radar systems that will enable it to project military and paramilitary power into the furthest and most hotly-contested reaches of the South China Sea.
Meanwhile, the Guardian reported yesterday that the Japanese defense ministry has requested the largest military budget in the country’s history, as the country grows increasingly worried about Chinese encroachment:
Japan had been making annual cuts to its defence budget for a decade up to 2013. The increases since then reflect its growing anxiety about China’s expanding naval reach. The rise is also in line with Japan’s more assertive defence policy under the conservative prime minister, Shinzo Abe, as he seeks to check Chinese influence and expand the scope of his country’s military.
As we’ve said before, U.S. allies in Asia, chief among them Japan—though none of them are strong enough to take on Beijing alone—together can form a net around an ever more assertive China. But if America’s strength isn’t there to reinforce the net, the strategy doesn’t work. For the moment, few seem to believe it is.