WHAT seems evident is that China is taking small but provocative steps to assert her sovereignty over what we call the West Philippine Sea by shooing away the fishermen and some of our naval vessels who were sent to resupply some of our troops. She knows that we are no match for her much more modern and fully equipped naval vessels and so when she pushed, we backed away. She is obviously testing the waters by escalating her control over the shoals and the sea.
It would seem that what we will likely see over the next several months will be more provocative actions from China but actions carefully calibrated not to produce a reaction from the US. China in all likelihood feels, and correctly, that the US for all of the rhetoric is not eager to engage China in these waters, what with the Crimean problem the US is also facing.
In this latter case, Crimea is at the border of Russia and it was easy for Russia to mobilize forces apart from the fact that it would seem there is much Crimean sympathy to reconnect with Russia. Of course, historically, Crimea was part of Russia until her recent collapse and dismemberment.
I frankly don’t believe Russia will give in at all for all the sanction threats and other actions that Obama might threaten Russia with from 10,000 miles away. But for the US to take military action seems far-fetched. Maybe many condemning speeches at the UN. But they can’t even pass a resolution at the UN Security Council because Russia is a permanent member who will veto any such resolution.
So the carefully controlled actions of China in the South Asian seas will use minimum force, or no force at all, just threats and bluffs and sneaky moves which she has been doing anyway from quite a few years back. It will be more of simply establishing her presence because we are incapable of doing the same or resisting such efforts and our getting used to it.
Troops in small islets or shoals are ineffective if unable to move or realistically defend themselves when push comes to shove. All of these moves gain for China the dominion of the seas and the islets and shoals even if not overt total control which they have as an objective. This is the pragmatic element of China’s moves in the area. While the US appetite for confrontation is weak, China realizes that militarily they are still behind the US in rather important ways.
Furthermore, more military actions at this time can hasten the establishment of US forces here in the Far East which would make China’s objective, total South Asian hegemony a much more difficult objective. In sum, the conclusion for the moment seems to be one little step at a time while it is not yet easily quantifiable what the consequences of reckless action on China’s part might trigger. In other words, presently China has more to lose should a shooting war break out. But that will not always be the case. By 2020 or even a little earlier, the equation might be truly different. The Chinese economy will likely overtake the US by or before then, and the military equation might well be tipped more in China’s favor as the US downsizes her forces and China keeps on aggressively expanding her capabilities.
Can technology make up for a smaller military size so that the US can stay significantly ahead of China? Some Israeli senior cabinet member, obviously with the PM’s blessing said that the US is showing a weak posture to the world and many people are questioning the value of US commitments overseas.
Pres. Obama is supposed to come to our shores soon and we are shortly supposed to have some agreement about co-sharing our military bases with her. I am not sure exactly what it means. Co-sharing the bases is rather impractical to begin with and it would be very hard for our AFP to retain control of our military bases when used by two sovereign nations and one is much more competent and better equipped than the other.
Will the US flag fly under the Philippine flag or will the flags fly together? Will the situation be like in corporations, there will be two co-equal heads? It looks like a situation looking for trouble. Of course, others might argue and say what choice do we really have? We can’t play ball with China, she wants to eat us up. All the rhetoric about mutual respect and friendship is just that, rhetoric! Well, the outcome seems not too difficult to predict. The US will not risk a bloody confrontation with China.
I wish that cooler heads handled this problem with China without handing the seas to China without a whimper from the start and did not add to the heat of the day with ill considered if not bravado statements. If both sides end up boxed in a tight corner, everyone’s guess about the outcome will be just as good as any other! But I suggest this is time for some contingency planning on a rather wide level. We cannot see the problem as something only affecting the seas. We will see a few other areas regarding our domestic economy that need to truly plan ahead with wisdom and determination.