Escalation isn’t in China’s best interest

What will happen in the Pacific if someone is tempted to pull a trigger or push a button? Furthermore: is the temptation real or purely hypothetical? Those who design scenarios knows that any solution is possible, even if the conflict obviously the least probably and desired one. In any case, the Pax Americana that resisted the Soviet threat and Vietnamese victory is being called into question today. The issue of Taiwan and the Korean peninsula remain unresolved problems, but the novelty is China’s expansion into the Southern Seas. Beijing is reclaiming the islands of the “nine-dash line,” which would give it exclusive sovereignty over an immense ocean, up to the shores of Indonesia. The little islands, even the rocks and shoals, are the legal pretext for unifying vast expanses of water that would fall under Beijing’s territory. The fish and offshore oil reserves are secondary, collateral effects of a very pure game of power. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (the most accredited institute regarding military affairs), in 2012 China increased its defense spending by 7.8%. The figure joins Beijing’s verbal and political claims that recognize its historical and inalienable rights and don’t hesitate to conflict with neighboring countries. The news is full of arrests of fishermen, new lighthouse constructions, and exercises. The chosen policy is progressive fait accompli. Probably coincidentally, the Japanese government has adopted a dynamic interpretation of its constitution. The meaning of article 9 has been changed, which unequivocally prohibited the use of military forces in any situation. Now, not only will self-defense operations be possible (already granted in 1954 during the heart of the cold war), but also military operations to support allies under attack. Excessive acuity is not necessary to understand the reciprocal support for the US and other Pacific allies. Confirming the tensions, Malaysia recently authorized logistical support for the sophisticated US spy aircraft, P-8, which is capable of long-range reconnaissance and anti-submarine missions. The base is in Labuan, in Malaysian Borneo, in proximity of the contested islands. So, what would be the consequences of an uncontrolled escalation? China doesn’t have a chance at victory. Every student of warfare believes that its armed forces, albeit numerous and better equipped, do not have elevated capabilities. They are still structured according to the criteria of the People’s Liberation Army and they have limited access to the most sophisticated and destructive weapons. Japan, however, does not lack the most complex and expensive weapons, fruit of benevolent negotiations with the US. According to experts, a lot will depend on the nature of the conflict, if it will be conventional or based on nuclear threats, if it will involve allies, if it will be fought on land, air, or sea, if it will involve the use of amphibious vehicles, tanks, and what Taiwan’s role will be. In any case, Japan’s superiority seems hard to deny. Reconsidering history confirms this prediction. The Land of the Rising Sun has had many militarized periods, and China was a victim of this for a long time. A military tradition innervates Japanese culture, even if it was disowned by the tragedy in Hiroshima. On the contrary, the military hierarchy in China has always been subordinated: by Confucian scholars, imperial courts, and by the CPC’s orders. Mao’s comments on policies that need to commands guns are well recorded at the Military Museum in Beijing. There haven’t been military coup d’états in China, even if the country has lost many wars. Beijing knows well its disadvantages and traditions. It’s fueling nationalism for other reasons, maybe to find internal cohesion, to suggest that Xi Jin Ping is strong, or the pride of its citizens. It seems to have forgotten Deng Xiao Ping’s teachings to not impose leadership, which it must grow in silence, and to not create useless antagonisms. Many hope that these memories not be lost, and that the recommendations of party apparatuses and generals not be heeded. Neither China nor the peace in the Pacific has anything to gain.