Playing Chicken with China

David Newland
A few weeks ago a Chinese diesel submarine surfaced about five miles from a US carrier battle group.  Even in peacetime conditions such a provocation entitles a defender to open fire and sink the intruder, but the commander of the US carrier group chose not to.  Whether or not his decision was the right one is almost beside the point now.  For those who are aware of what the Chinese have been up to over the last three decades, the surfacing was another in a long series of examples of their preparations for war.

While US Navy submarines have shadowed the warships of various unfriendly nations since the end of the Second World War, such surveillance has been free of deliberately risky and provocative actions.  The Chinese intent was to see if the US Navy was prepared to shoot.  Unless the testosterone levels of the sub’s crew rendered them mind-numbed zealots they must have been very relieved that the experiment went as well as it did.

The formal Chinese reaction to the surfacing (a yawn: “we weren’t aware of the incident”) is in sharp contrast to their super aggressive action against US spy plane flights near the Chinese coast but still out over international waters.  In 2001 the Chinese deliberately downed a US spy plane by ordering two of their jet fighters to ram it.  All on board the US Navy EP-3E Aries II survived but one fighter pilot was presumed to have been killed.  Just having the US plane that close to their coast was considered a “brazen” act by the Chinese and worth the international incident.  The sub surfacing incident meets and surpasses any reality based test of the word ‘brazen’…and it also means a great deal more than that.

Even if, for the sake of argument, the sub surfacing was just an accident, diplomacy dictates that the offender evince some sort of apology albeit an insincere one.  But so far they have declined and this clearly demonstrates their hostile attitude toward the US and the rest of the world.  This incident represents another example of the Chinese regime’s mantra of never missing an opportunity to diss the US over practically anything even at the risk of making it appear as though their military doesn’t know what it’s up to.

But the Chinese do know what they are up to.  By their actions they’re signaling anyone who’s ‘listening’ that their real objective is to re-unite Taiwan with the mainland, through force if necessary.

If they ever accomplish their goal, their next step would be to present the US with a choice between war over a lost cause or perhaps an uncharacteristically generous offer to open China’s market in exchange for the status quo.  However, the Chinese are acutely aware of their military might and numbers…a political ace in their weapons arsenal and a political watershed for any would-be contender.  No gestures of appeasement will ever be presented for they know all too well that faced with the choice of going to war or accepting an undesirable but peaceful status quo, any American president would be intensely pressured to choose the latter.

The US has a lot on its plate right now, but in the long run the Chinese bag has the most marbles in it.  Our current relationship with China should be reviewed and steps should be taken to change what has not worked.  Our present ‘trade relationship’ with China, for one, has to be revamped.

The Chinese chafe over Pax Americana…they strongly desire to see it replaced with one that serves their needs, rather than the West…and that puts the Middle Kingdom firmly in the place where they believe it belongs.

David Newland
A few weeks ago a Chinese diesel submarine surfaced about five miles from a US carrier battle group.  Even in peacetime conditions such a provocation entitles a defender to open fire and sink the intruder, but the commander of the US carrier group chose not to.  Whether or not his decision was the right one is almost beside the point now.  For those who are aware of what the Chinese have been up to over the last three decades, the surfacing was another in a long series of examples of their preparations for war.

While US Navy submarines have shadowed the warships of various unfriendly nations since the end of the Second World War, such surveillance has been free of deliberately risky and provocative actions.  The Chinese intent was to see if the US Navy was prepared to shoot.  Unless the testosterone levels of the sub’s crew rendered them mind-numbed zealots they must have been very relieved that the experiment went as well as it did.

The formal Chinese reaction to the surfacing (a yawn: “we weren’t aware of the incident”) is in sharp contrast to their super aggressive action against US spy plane flights near the Chinese coast but still out over international waters.  In 2001 the Chinese deliberately downed a US spy plane by ordering two of their jet fighters to ram it.  All on board the US Navy EP-3E Aries II survived but one fighter pilot was presumed to have been killed.  Just having the US plane that close to their coast was considered a “brazen” act by the Chinese and worth the international incident.  The sub surfacing incident meets and surpasses any reality based test of the word ‘brazen’…and it also means a great deal more than that.

Even if, for the sake of argument, the sub surfacing was just an accident, diplomacy dictates that the offender evince some sort of apology albeit an insincere one.  But so far they have declined and this clearly demonstrates their hostile attitude toward the US and the rest of the world.  This incident represents another example of the Chinese regime’s mantra of never missing an opportunity to diss the US over practically anything even at the risk of making it appear as though their military doesn’t know what it’s up to.

But the Chinese do know what they are up to.  By their actions they’re signaling anyone who’s ‘listening’ that their real objective is to re-unite Taiwan with the mainland, through force if necessary.

If they ever accomplish their goal, their next step would be to present the US with a choice between war over a lost cause or perhaps an uncharacteristically generous offer to open China’s market in exchange for the status quo.  However, the Chinese are acutely aware of their military might and numbers…a political ace in their weapons arsenal and a political watershed for any would-be contender.  No gestures of appeasement will ever be presented for they know all too well that faced with the choice of going to war or accepting an undesirable but peaceful status quo, any American president would be intensely pressured to choose the latter.

The US has a lot on its plate right now, but in the long run the Chinese bag has the most marbles in it.  Our current relationship with China should be reviewed and steps should be taken to change what has not worked.  Our present ‘trade relationship’ with China, for one, has to be revamped.

The Chinese chafe over Pax Americana…they strongly desire to see it replaced with one that serves their needs, rather than the West…and that puts the Middle Kingdom firmly in the place where they believe it belongs.

David Newland