"The Chinese have a great track record in demanding to be treated as a great power and a mixed record in acting like one," says David Finkelstein, a former defense attache in Beijing.Of course, China's recent attempts at maritime land grabs are setting up the region for more tension:
The new Pentagon report, "Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China," suggests China wants to establish itself as a dominant regional power before claiming a larger global role. The Chinese military, according to the Pentagon, is pursuing "anti access and area denial strategies" in its corner of the world with respect to potential rivals like Japan, South Korea and the United States. In part, this means being prepared to keep U.S. and other foreign military forces as far from Chinese waters as possible.
"One of the missions that have been given to the Chinese Navy and the Chinese air force has been to extend China's defensive perimeter out to sea, eastward," says Finkelstein, now at the Center for Naval Analyses. "So they're developing operational capabilities that can make it difficult for forces outside the region to operate with impunity inside China's coastal strategic areas."
"They do intend to become very dominant in the region," says Cornell's Prasad, formerly the top China specialist at the International Monetary Fund. "They see economic, political and military issues as all intertwined in terms of trying to obtain their longer-term objectives."All the more reason to expect (or at least not be surprised) all hell to eventually break loose if the Pax Americana were to end.
International law normally recognizes a country's territorial domain only over seawaters within 12 miles of its shores, but China is claiming dominion out to 300 miles. Other Asian countries, with U.S. support, are now pushing back, as was evidenced at a meeting last month of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Hanoi. But China has not retreated, with Chinese leaders even asserting their domination of the Yellow Sea, between China and the Korean Peninsula.
"Beijing's statements about their sovereignty in the Yellow Sea as well as their sovereignty in the southern part of the China Sea reflect a new, even more expanded view [of their sovereignty claims]," says James Mulvenon of the Defense Group consultancy. He notes that the United States has repeatedly challenged China's claims, most recently in the speech given by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the ASEAN meeting in Hanoi.
|In a spectacular fireworks display east of Shanghai, |
China's elite show what it will look like
when they finally blow up Japan and the United States.
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