SPECIAL REPORTS: CHINA ASSERTIVE ON 'PANATAG' SHOAL / CHINA'S STRATEGY

[PHOTO - This photo taken on October 23, 2011, shows US marines taking their position during an amphibious landing simulation on the shores of Zambales province, north of Manila, as part of RPUS Amphibious Landing Exercise. Thousands of US soldiers will begin nearly two weeks of war games in the Philippines on April 16 as the two nations look to strengthen their military alliance amid concerns over China’s rising power. AFP PHOTO]

MANILA, APRIL 23, 2012 (MANILA TIMES) Written by : Rene Q. Bas Editor in Chief -

FROM the banner story on “Chinese boats flee Panatag shoal”. see below, one can conclude that the situation between our country and China is still a confrontation.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario refers to the talks between the Philippine and China being in a “stalemate.”

But a Philippine Coast Guard ship and a Chinese Marine Surveillance ship are in confrontation because both countries have their ships watching waters and shoal that belong to us and China claims to be its territory.

We say our Coast Guard ship is monitoring the “Chinese marine vessel,” a ship that the spokesman of the PRC foreign ministry has denied being a “naval vessel.”

True, Chinese Marine Surveillance (CMS) ships are not under the China’s PLA Navy but they are armed security-force vessels under China’s “South China Sea Corps.” There is also an East China Sea Corps whose mission is to protect Chinese vessels in the sea touching Japan and Korea.

The three CMS ships that appeared to counter our BRP Gregorio del Pilar, when it stopped eight Chinese fishing boats poaching in our waters, were supported by an armed aircraft. The largest of the three PRC CMSs that confronted the del Pilar was a 1,000-ton vessel.

China is therefore making a show of force.

There have been prior confrontations. The last one before this was the incident at the Recto Reef Bank (Reed Bank) last year. In that incident a PRC CMS drove off the Voyager, which was hired by the Philippines and a British company to do seismic surveys.

There were other incidents in earlier years.

But this current show of Chinese might is the heaviest of all. It makes one wonder why China has decided to do it.

One possible immediate reason is the coming transition in national leadership and the ongoing debate between factions, a debate that seems to have been won by conservatives against the neo-Maoists? Perhaps the victorious faction would like to persuade the internal public in China that the ruling market-economy partisans are also tough against external enemies.

But there are more serious reason that have to do with the long-term strategy of the People’s Republic’s leaders.

How the leaders of China feel about this matter is better seen in a Xinhua commentary that appeared on Thursday than the official statements made by either our Foreign Office or the Chinese Embassy.

Huangyan Island is how Chinese refer to Panatag Shoal.

Chinese boats flee Panatag Shoal Published : Sunday, April 15, 2012 00:00  Written by : AFP WITH REPORTS FROM JOVEE MARIE N. DELA CRUZ AND ANTHONY VARGAS

TALKS between the Philippines and China over boats in the disputed Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal remained in a “stalemate” despite the departure of all but one Chinese vessel from the area, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said on Saturday.

He also confirmed that the eight Chinese fishing vessels that sparked the maritime standoff had fled the shoal even while talks were going on.

In a statement, del Rosario said that he only learned of the departure of the Chinese boats while negotiating on the dispute with Chinese Ambassador to Manila Ma Keqing on Friday night.

“The meeting with Ambassador Ma last night resulted in a stalemate as we had demanded of one another that the other nation’s ship be the first to leave the area,” he added.

According to Malacañang deputy spokesman Abigail Valte, the Foreign Affairs department would keep on working to resolve the issue despite the vessels’ departure.

“The DFA [Department of Foreign Affairs] [will continue] to work with the Chinese Embassy [in finding] a diplomatic solution to this [problem],” Valte said during a radio interview also on Saturday.

“Both sides have agreed to give less priority to the diplomatic protests that were filed,” she added.

The Armed Forces has said that a Philippine Coast Guard vessel remains at Panatag, located about 230 kilometers west of Luzon, monitoring a Chinese marine vessel.

The Chinese ship is one of three Chinese civilian vessels that took turns in preventing the Philippines from arresting the Chinese fishermen after they were caught fishing in the shoal on Sunday last week.

Del Rosario also said that it was “regrettable” the fishing boats were allowed to leave without the Philippines confiscating their catch of endangered species like giant clams, corals and live sharks.

Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara, the head of the Northern Luzon Command, said that tensions in the area had been “defused” by the departure of most of the Chinese boats.

“Apparently this [the departure] is the result of diplomatic talks . . . and we think the situation—the standoff—has been defused, which is what we like,” he told defense reporters during a telephone-patched interview.

But the military official stressed that the coast guard ship would stay in the area.

“The coast guard is still there to take care of our interest in the area and our Navy ship [BRP Gregorio del Pilar] is still re-supplying and preparing for the next mission,” Alcantara said.

The crisis started on April 8 when the Philippines found the eight Chinese fishing boats in the area, which Manila claims as its territory.

BRP Gregorio del Pilar was preparing to arrest the Chinese fishermen for poaching, but China dispatched the three civilian vessels to take turns in blocking the Philippine ship.

A Philippine Coast Guard ship later replaced the Navy ship but on Friday, it was reported that three of the eight Chinese fishing boats had left the shoal. A day later, all eight were found to have fled.

The Philippines says that the shoal is in its territory, well within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone, as recognized by international law.

But Beijing has insisted that the shoal is Chinese territory as part of its claim to all of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), even waters up to the coasts of other countries.

Besides the Philippines and China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei also claim all or parts of the waters as their own.

The Philippines and Vietnam complained last year of increasingly aggressive acts by China in staking its claim to the West Philippine Sea.

However, this week’s standoff is the highest-profile in recent years.

Do not deliberately create disputes on issue of South China Sea Published : Sunday, April 15, 2012 00:00  Written by : Wu Liminga Xinhua writer

Xinhua commentary

BEIJING: Earlier this week, a Philippines warship entered waters off Huangyan Island in the South China Sea and cited “protecting sovereignty” as an excuse to harass Chinese fishermen who were taking shelter from a storm in the lagoon.

A standoff ensued after two Chinese surveillance ships arrived in the waters to prevent the arrest of the Chinese fishermen. The Chinese government has made strong representations to the Philippines on this matter.

The face-off is just one example of a flurry of dangerous moves taken by Manila concerning the issue of the South China Sea.

These acts have seriously violated the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) signed by China and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2002, which set a principle of resolving disputes through bilateral dialogue.

However, a handful of countries in the past two years have sought to use the backing of external forces to behave in excess of what is proper in the South China Sea, which both infringes China’s sovereignty and violates the consensus on maintaining peace and stability of the South China Sea and avoiding further complicating and amplifying the situation.

It is well known countries surrounding the South China Sea, including the Philippines, have vowed to conform to the DOC, while resorting to outsiders instead of bilateral talks in their efforts to resolve disputes in the region, in effect eating their words.

History also shows that meddling by outsiders will only backfire. Worse still, outsiders could use countries’ attempts to milk their support as a means to tilt the regional balance in their favor.

The Chinese Embassy reiterated that Huangyan Island is an integral part of the Chinese territory and the waters around it are a traditional fishing area for Chinese, for which China has abundant historical and jurisprudence backings.

There are many documents dating back to ancient times that record the fact Huangyan Island is part of Chinese territory.

The fact that China has sovereign rights and exercises jurisdiction over Huangyan Island is widely respected by the international community.

China has long abided by the principle of resolving disputes through peaceful diplomatic negotiation and upholds the stance of shelving disputes to seek common development on the issue of the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said at a regular press briefing on Wednesday that the so-called law-enforcement actions by the Philippines in the waters off Huangyan Island was an infringement of China’s sovereignty.

Liu also urged the Philippines to stop making new trouble and avoid actions that could complicate and aggravate the situation.

As the standoff continues, China hopes the Philippines acts with a view to the overall situation of maintaining peace and stability in the South China Sea and works with China to create favorable conditions for the healthy and stable development of relations between the two countries.

Philippine relations with the United States I’m sure Philippine relations with the United States is discussed openly in diplomatic talks between the Philippines and China.

But did Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Ambassador Ma Keqing when they were discussing the Panatag Shoal stand-off?

The Xinhua commentary quoted in full above is obviously adverting to the USA in the sentence: “However, a handful of countries in the past two years have sought to use the backing of external forces to behave in excess of what is proper in the South China Sea, which both infringes China’s sovereignty and violates reign the consensus on maintaining peace and stability of the South China Sea and avoiding further complicating and amplifying the situation.” And in the words “meddling by outsiders.”

Is China being assertive about its claims of sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea because the United States has firmly proclaimed its intention to remain a power in the Pacific?

The STRATFOR geopolitical analysis in this special report examines China’s strategic problems and motivations.

There is a “military component”—according to STRATFOR’S George friedman—to the situation China faces.

Military component “Besides the issues with its economic model, China also faces a primarily military problem. China depends on the high seas to survive. The configuration of the South China Sea and the East China Sea render China relatively easy to blockade. The East China Sea is enclosed on a line from Korea to Japan to Taiwan, with a string of islands between Japan and Taiwan. The South China Sea is even more enclosed on a line from Taiwan to the Philippines, and from Indonesia to Singapore. Beijing’s single greatest strategic concern is that the United States would impose a blockade on China, not by positioning its 7th Fleet inside the two island barriers but outside them.

From there, the United States could compel China to send its naval forces far away from the mainland to force an opening—and encounter US warships—and still be able to close off China’s exits.

“That China does not have a navy capable of challenging the United States compounds the problem. China is still in the process of completing its first aircraft carrier; indeed, its navy is insufficient in size and quality to challenge the United States. But naval hardware is not China’s greatest challenge. The United States commissioned its first aircraft carrier in 1922 and has been refining both carrier aviation and battle group tactics ever since. Developing admirals and staffs capable of commanding carrier battle groups takes generations. Since the Chinese have never had a carrier battle group in the first place, they have never had an admiral commanding a carrier battle group.

“China understands this problem and has chosen a different strategy to deter a US naval blockade: anti-ship missiles capable of engaging and perhaps penetrating US carrier defensive systems, along with a substantial submarine presence. The United States has no desire to engage the Chinese at all, but were this to change, the Chinese response would be fraught with difficulty.”

China’s US problem involves us Filipinos China’s problem with the US and the possibility of being blockaded one day involves the Philippines.

It is therefore China’s strategy to include diminishing US influence on the Philippines as well as insuring that the West Philippine Sea truly and physically become a place solidly under PRC control.

This means the Philippines will one day have to make a choice between China and the United States.

Meanwhile, if we are to be diplomatic and do as China pleases, and stop making “ dangerous moves concerning the issue of the South China Sea,” does it mean that:

• Our President and Secretary of Foreign Affairs should no longer say that it is “clear that the Scarborough Shoal is an integral part of the Philippines.” That “We have sovereignty and sovereign rights over Scarbo-rough Shoal”?

• We should agree with the Chinese leaders that we should not internationalize our territorial disputes with their country and only talk to them and no one else about these?

• Our government should not file diplomatic protests and tell the United Nations and Asean about these incidents?

• If we want some development work done— exploration for oil and such things, for instance —we should do as China suggests, do it with Chinese ministries and companies and not with “outside forces.”

• We Filipinos should oppose the United States in its policy of having a say in the way the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is to be governed, policed and used? That we should, in other words, not be like Singapore and other countries of Asean, that have agreed to hold war games and bilateral military activities with the United States? That we should abrogate our Mutual Defense Treaty with the US?

• We should diplomatically swallow our pride and accept being a vassal state of China? That we should accept becoming one of those children who would be given a spanking (as the late Deng Xiaoping said of Vietnam) if—in the opinion of the rulers of the Middle Kingdom now known as the People’s Republic of China— we misbehave?

The Philippines and China have reached an impasse. Secretary del Rosario himself says we are in a stalemate. Despite the Philippine efforts to settle the territorial disputes through diplomacy—by holding talks—our government and that of China are deadlocked.

In diplomacy, when there’s a deadlock between two parties, the only way progress can happen is for one of the parties to agree to subordinate its interests.

It’s in the end a matter of power. Which one has more wealth, a bigger army, navy and air force. Which is the nuclear power.

The confrontation between our warship Gregorio del Pilar and China’s naval surveillance ships, according to one viewpoint, “put us in our place.” What place is that?

The place of the weak Sad Sack who occasionally talks strong. From now on therefore, if we don’t want China to beat us up, we must shut up.

What about the things China does not like about Philippine foreign relations—like our military ties with the United States? Like the USA’s being the main source of funds and materiel to modernize and strengthen our armed forces?

That too will have to change—if we want to “be diplomatic” and please China.

There is no such thing as a win-win solution in geopolitics and in serious diplomacy.

So what should our posture be?

Grin and bear it?

Should we let the rapist have his way with us—and, as a former foreign secretary despicably said a long time ago about female OFWs—learn to enjoy it?

The state of the world: Assessing China’s strategy Published : Sunday, April 15, 2012 00:00 Written by : George Friedman

SIMPLY put, China has three core strategic interests.

[PHOTO - PEOPLE'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA]

Paramount among them is the maintenance of domestic security. Historically, when China involves itself in global trade, as it did in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the coastal region prospers, while the interior of China — which begins about 160 kilometers (100 miles) from the coast and runs about 1,600 kilometers to the west — languishes. Roughly two-thirds of all Chinese citizens currently have household incomes lower than the average household income in Bolivia.

Most of China’s poor are located west of the richer coastal region. This disparity of wealth time and again has exposed tensions between the interests of the coast and those of the interior. After a failed rising in Shanghai in 1927, Mao Zedong exploited these tensions by undertaking the Long March into the interior, raising a peasant army and ultimately conquering the coastal region. He shut China off from the international trading system, leaving China more united and equal, but extremely poor.

The current government has sought a more wealth-friendly means of achieving stability: buying popular loyalty with mass employment. Plans for industrial expansion are implemented with little thought to markets or margins; instead, maximum employment is the driving goal. Private savings are harnessed to finance the industrial effort, leaving little domestic capital to purchase the output. China must export accordingly.

China’s second strategic concern derives from the first.

China’s industrial base by design produces more than its domestic economy can consume, so China must export goods to the rest of the world while importing raw materials.

The Chinese therefore must do everything possible to ensure international demand for their exports. This includes a range of activities, from investing money in the economies of consumer countries to establishing unfettered access to global sea-lanes.

The third strategic interest is in maintaining control over buffer states.

The population of the historical Han Chinese heartland is clustered in the eastern third of the country, where ample precipitation distinguishes it from the much more dry and arid central and western thirds.

China’s physical security therefore depends on controlling the four non-Han Chinese buffer states that surround it: Manchuria, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang and Tibet. Securing these regions means China can insulate itself from Russia to the north, any attack from the western steppes, and any attack from India or Southeast Asia.

Controlling the buffer states provides China geographical barriers — jungles, mountains, steppes and the Siberian wasteland — that are difficult to surmount and creates a defense in depth that puts any attacker at a grave disadvantage.

Challenged interests

Today, China faces challenges to all three of these interests.

[PHOTO - THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA: TODAY A TRUE SYMBOL OF WORLD PEACE]

The economic downturn in Europe and the United States, China’s two main customers, has exposed Chinese exports to increased competition and decreased appetite. Meanwhile, China has been unable to appropriately increase domestic demand and guarantee access to global sea-lanes independent of what the US Navy is willing to allow.

Those same economic stresses also challenge China domestically. The wealthier coast depends on trade that is now faltering, and the impoverished interior requires subsidies that are difficult to provide when economic growth is slowing substantially.

In addition, two of China’s buffer regions are in flux. Elements within Tibet and Xinjiang adamantly resist Han Chinese occupation. China understands that the loss of these regions could pose severe threats to China’s security, particularly if such losses would draw India north of the Himalayas or create a radical Islamic regime in Xinjiang.

The situation in Tibet is potentially the most troubling. Outright war between India and China— anything beyond minor skirmishes —is impossible so long as both are separated by the Himalayas.

Neither side could logistically sustain large-scale multi-divisional warfare in that terrain. But China and India could threaten one another if they were to cross the Himalayas and establish a military presence on the either side of the mountain chain.

For India, the threat would emerge if Chinese forces entered Pakistan in large numbers. For China, the threat would occur if large numbers of Indian troops entered Tibet.

China therefore constantly postures as if it were going to send large numbers of forces into Pakistan, but in the end, the Pakistanis have no interest in de facto Chinese occupation—even if the occupation were directed against India.

Likewise, the Chinese are not interested in undertaking security operations in Pakistan. The Indians have little interest in sending forces into Tibet in the event of a Tibetan revolution.

For India, an independent Tibet without Chinese forces would be interesting, but a Tibet where the Indians would have to commit significant forces would not be. As much as the Tibetans represent a problem for China, the problem is manageable.

Tibetan insurgents might receive some minimal encouragement and support from India, but not to a degree that would threaten Chinese control.

So long as the internal problems in Han China are manageable, so is Chinese domination of the buffer states, albeit with some effort and some damage to China’s reputation abroad.

The key for China is maintaining interior stability. If this portion of Han China destabilizes, control of the buffers becomes impossible. Maintaining interior stability requires the transfer of resources, which in turn requires the continued robust growth of the Chinese coastal economy to generate the capital to transfer inland.

Should exports stop flowing out and raw materials in, incomes in the interior would quickly fall to politically explosive levels. (China today is far from revolution, but social tensions are increasing, and China must use its security apparatus and the People’s Liberation Army to control these tensions.)

Maintaining those flows is a considerable challenge. The very model of employment and market share over profitability misallocates scores of resources and breaks the normally self-regulating link between supply and demand. One of the more disruptive results is inflation, which alternatively raises the costs of subsidizing the interior while eroding China’s competitiveness with other low-cost global exporters.

For the Chinese, this represents a strategic challenge, a challenge that can only be countered by increasing the profitability on Chinese economic activity. This is nearly impossible for low value-added producers. The solution is to begin manufacturing higher value-added products (fewer shoes, more cars), but this necessitates a different sort of work force, one with years more education and training than the average Chinese coastal inhabitant, much less someone from the interior.

It also requires direct competition with the well-established economies of Japan, Germany and the United States. This is the strategic battleground that China must attack if it is to maintain its stability.

A military component

Besides the issues with its economic model, China also faces a primarily military problem. China depends on the high seas to survive. The configuration of the South China Sea and the East China Sea render China relatively easy to blockade. The East China Sea is enclosed on a line from Korea to Japan to Taiwan, with a string of islands between Japan and Taiwan.

The South China Sea is even more enclosed on a line from Taiwan to the Philippines, and from Indonesia to Singapore. Beijing’s single greatest strategic concern is that the United States would impose a blockade on China, not by positioning its 7th Fleet inside the two island barriers but outside them.

From there, the United States could compel China to send its naval forces far away from the mainland to force an opening — and encounter US warships — and still be able to close off China’s exits.

That China does not have a navy capable of challenging the United States compounds the problem. China is still in the process of completing its first aircraft carrier; indeed, its navy is insufficient in size and quality to challenge the United States. But naval hardware is not China’s greatest challenge.

The United States commissioned its first aircraft carrier in 1922 and has been refining both carrier aviation and battle group tactics ever since. Developing admirals and staffs capable of commanding carrier battle groups takes generations. Since the Chinese have never had a carrier battle group in the first place, they have never had an admiral commanding a carrier battle group.

China understands this problem and has chosen a different strategy to deter a US naval blockade: anti-ship missiles capable of engaging and perhaps penetrating US carrier defensive systems, along with a substantial submarine presence. The United States has no desire to engage the Chinese at all, but were this to change, the Chinese response would be fraught with difficulty.

While China has a robust land-based missile system, a land-based missile system is inherently vulnerable to strikes by cruise missiles, aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles currently in development and other types of attack. China’s ability to fight a sustained battle is limited.

Moreover, a missile strategy works only with an effective reconnaissance capability. You cannot destroy a ship if you do not know where it is. This in turn necessitates space-based systems able to identify US ships and a tightly integrated fire-control system. That raises the question of whether the United States has an anti-satellite capability. We would assume that it does, and if the United States used it, it would leave China blind.

China is therefore supplementing this strategy by acquiring port access in countries in the Indian Ocean and outside the South China Sea box.

[PHOTO - MYANMAR, FORMERLY BURMA]

Beijing has plans to build ports in Myanmar, which is flirting with ending its international isolation, and Pakistan. Beijing already has financed and developed port access to Gwadar in Pakistan, Colombo and Hambantota in Sri Lanka, Chittagong in Bangladesh, and it has hopes for a deepwater port at Sittwe, Myanmar.

In order for this strategy to work, China needs transportation infrastructure linking China to the ports. This means extensive rail and road systems. The difficulty of building this in Myanmar, for example, should not be underestimated.

But more important, China needs to maintain political relationships that will allow it to access the ports. Pakistan and Myanmar, for example, have a degree of instability, and China cannot assume that cooperative governments will always be in place in such countries.

In Myanmar’s case, recent political openings could result in Naypyidaw’s falling out of China’s sphere of influence. Building a port and roads and finding that a coup or an election has created an anti-Chinese government is a possibility. Given that this is one of China’s fundamental strategic interests, Beijing cannot simply assume that building a port will give it unrestricted access to the port. Add to this that roads and rail lines are easily sabotaged by guerrilla forces or destroyed by air or missile attacks.

In order for the ports on the Indian Ocean to prove useful, Beijing must be confident in its ability to control the political situation in the host country for a long time. That sort of extended control can only be guaranteed by having overwhelming power available to force access to the ports and the transportation system.

It is important to bear in mind that since the Communists took power, China has undertaken offensive military operations infrequently — and to undesirable results.

Its invasion of Tibet was successful, but it was met with minimal effective resistance. Its intervention in Korea did achieve a stalemate but at horrendous cost to the Chinese, who endured the losses but became very cautious in the future.

In 1979, China attacked Vietnam but suffered a significant defeat. China has managed to project an image of itself as a competent military force, but in reality it has had little experience in force projection, and that experience has not been pleasant.

Internal security vs. power projection

The reason for this inexperience stems from internal security. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is primarily configured as a domestic security force — a necessity because of China’s history of internal tensions. It is not a question of whether China is currently experiencing such tensions; it is a question of possibility. Prudent strategic planning requires building forces to deal with worst-case situations.

Having been designed for internal security, the PLA is doctrinally and logistically disinclined toward offensive operations. Using a force trained for security as a force for offensive operations leads either to defeat or very painful stalemates. And given the size of China’s potential internal issues and the challenge of occupying a country like Myanmar, let alone Pakistan, building a secondary force of sufficient capability might not outstrip China’s available manpower but would certainly outstrip its command and logistical capabilities.

The PLA was built to control China, not to project power outward, and strategies built around the potential need for power projection are risky at best.

It should be noted that since the 1980s the Chinese have been attempting to transfer internal security responsibilities to the People’s Armed Police, the border forces and other internal security forces that have been expanded and trained to deal with social instability. But despite this restructuring, there remain enormous limitations on China’s ability to project military power on a scale sufficient to challenge the United States directly.

There is a disjuncture between the perception of China as a regional power and the reality. China can control its interior, but its ability to control its neighbors through military force is limited.

Indeed, the fear of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan is unfounded. It cannot mount an amphibious assault at that distance, let alone sustain extended combat logistically. One option China does have is surrogate guerrilla warfare in places like the Philippines or Indonesia. The problem with such warfare is that China needs to open sea-lanes, and guerrillas—even guerrillas armed with anti-ship missiles or mines—can at best close them.

Political solution

China therefore faces a significant strategic problem. China must base its national security strategy on what the United States is capable of doing, not on what Beijing seems to want at the moment. China cannot counter the United States at sea, and its strategy of building ports in the Indian Ocean suffers from the fact that its costs are huge and the political conditions for access uncertain. The demands of creating a force capable of guaranteeing access runs counter to the security requirements inside China itself.

As long as the United States is the world’s dominant naval power, China’s strategy must be the political neutralization of the United States. But Beijing must make certain that Washington does not feel so pressured that it chooses blockade as an option.

Therefore, China must present itself as an essential part of US economic life. But the United States does not necessarily see China’s economic activity as beneficial, and it is unclear whether China can maintain its unique position with the United States indefinitely. Other, cheaper alternatives are available. China’s official rhetoric and hard-line stances, designed to generate nationalist support inside the country, might be useful politically, but they strain relations with the United States. They do not strain relations to the point of risking military conflict, but given China’s weakness, any strain is dangerous. The Chinese feel they know how to walk the line between rhetoric and real danger with the United States. It is still a delicate balance.

There is a perception that China is a rising regional and even global power. It may be rising, but it is still far from solving its fundamental strategic problems and further yet from challenging the United States. The tensions within China’s strategy are certainly debilitating, if not fatal. All of its options have serious weaknesses. China’s real strategy must be to avoid having to make risky strategic choices. China has been fortunate for the past 30 years being able to avoid such decisions, but Beijing utterly lacks the tools required to reshape that environment. Considering how much of China’s world is in play right now — Sudanese energy disputes and Myanmar’s political experimentation leap to mind — this is essentially a policy of blind hope.

Republishing by The Manila Times of this analysis by George Friedman is with express permission of STRATFOR.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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