As promised, a U.S. destroyer sailed within 12 miles of China’s artificial outposts in the South China Sea yesterday. Beijing, unsurprisingly, wasn’t thrilled, according to Reuters:
“China strongly urges the U.S. side to conscientiously handle China’s serious representations, immediately correct its mistake and not take any dangerous or provocative acts that threat China’s sovereignty and security interests,” the ministry said in a statement on its website.
Beijing says it followed the ship closely and, today, summoned the American ambassador in protest.
But that was all. China has every incentive to be patient: unlike a waning power such as Russia, China has the strength and staying power to play the long game. (General Karl W. Eikenberry described how the game works, and the players strengths and weaknesses, in our July/August issue of this year.) Of course, China’s ambition is a good reason for the United States to establish a precedent early. Eventually, Beijing may feel it can get away with a tougher response.