Earlier this month Americas highest ranking naval officer, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, visited Beijing where he met with his Chinese counterparts.
This meeting possibly went one of two ways, it either went well and strengthened the relationship between the two countries navy’s or it went bad and only further distanced the two countries making dialogue that much more difficult. It seems that Admiral John Richardson tweeted out that the former was what had occurred, but Chinese officials have suggested that it was in fact the latter.
It’s interesting to note the differences between the public statements of either side, the Americans attempting to remain diplomatically appropriate, polite and proper and the Chinese focusing more on attacking the United States.
These differences can be easily pointed out in dialogue being had between the two countries, but it’s even easier to look at the actions of either side and see the differences and effects that they’re having. When the US remains strong, resolute and firm in their military and diplomatic presence Chinese ambitions are put on hold, at least temporarily.
In 2012, when it became clear that the US would not defend the Philippines Scarborough Shoal from being seized by the Chinese, Chinese officials, generals and admirals saw this as an opportunity to test the waters, so to speak.
Other islands and areas around the Philippines began seeing an increasingly larger Chinese presence, the militarization of the Spratly Chain began and a number of Japanese islands in the East China sea came under threat. The US’s failure to push back and protect its allies when the Chinese started seriously threating a number of key areas only emboldened them.
It’s been said for a very long time that “The best defence is a good offence”, and this doesn’t necessarily refer to an actual offence but more so the threat of one.
If the US wants to avoid conflict in East Asia, especially in the Taiwan strait, it’s clear that backing down and leaving key allies in the region defenceless against Chinese ambitions is the opposite of what it should be doing. Remaining strong in its presence in the region, both in terms of soft and hard power, will dissuade Chinese ambitions and contain the threat to many in the region.
It goes without saying that dialogue is key to facilitating peaceful and lasting resolutions, especially between rival countries. But, the issue here isn’t a lack of dialogue, as many would have you believe, it’s a lack of resoluteness on behalf of the United States who time and time again have failed to contain Chinese ambitions at great cost to key allies in the region and at an even greater cost to the US’s image.
If the Trump administration continues with the Obama era policies of backing down when the Chinese push, a history lesson is sorely needed. Chamberlain backed down and capitulated to German demands in the 1930’s, which obviously didn’t prevent a conflict. This isn’t to suggest that the situation is identical, merely that its similar.
If a war is to be prevented the best way of preventing is by showing strength, resoluteness and standing firm against Chinese ambitions.