Monday, April 14, 2014

The strong words of Chang Wanquan

China is not letting up on its big talk on sovereignty. This week U. S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel met with his Chinese counterpart Defense Minister Chang Wanquan. Wanquan did not have nice things to say about the Japanese, particularly Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Nor did Chang have anything particularly nice to say about the Philippines. He did say, ““We will not compromise, nor concede, nor trade on territory and sovereignty.”

A year ago the Chinese announced its “air defense identification zone” which extended to the Senkaku (Diaoyu) Islands and which China says provides it authorization to demand identification from and permission to upon any unidentified aircraft near the islands. Yet China has yet to enforce this air identification zone. And though it has made claims to the Senkakus in the East China Sea and other islands in the South China Sea which are currently held by the Philippines, China has yet to make any attempt to forcibly take the islands from either Japan or the Philippines.

However, it should be noted that this vocal stance is forging or strengthening alliances between other Asian nations. The Philippines recently took China’s territorial challenge in the South China Sea to the U.N. Permanent Court of Arbitration (which China subsequently declared did not have authority to hear the case), prompting Japan to applaud the move by the Philippines. And slowly, slowly, slowly relations between Japan and Korea may be softening. Maybe.

China’s main ally, Russia, has either become an international laughing stock or, due to its actions in Crimea, has become again the world’s greatest threat to international stability. Alarums have been raised. The world is not amused. And while I do not think the world has entered a new Cold War era, I do believe Russia has set itself in a bad position against the rest of the international community. China needs to dump Russia and move on.
In her recent trip to China, First Lady Michelle Obama was received cordially. Her political messages to China indulged. China knows it must work to some extent with Japan and the Philippines and Korea and the U.S. and the E.U. It must work with these other nations politcally to maintain its economic transcendence. But it order to become a greater political influence, it must be able to maintain an image of strength; in order to keep other nations from taking advantage of its weak borders, China sets itself to these little tiffs with strong nations, flexes its military muscle, and defense minister must frown down at defense secretary.

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