Friday, May 07, 2010

How to win friends and influence people, Beijing-style

Imagine it. Beijing looks out at the Pacific and what does it see? A weak US economy. A foreign policy apparatus obsessed with the Middle East to the neglect of everywhere else, including Asia. A military blunted by two unnecessary, protracted wars in -- where else? -- the Middle East. A busted US budget. What could be better?

I'll tell you what: a new government comes to power in Japan and immediately looks into the prospect of heaving US bases off Okinawa, where they have long been controversial. That new government is weakly pro-US and far more willing to be nice to China. The people of Japan are even viewing China with less suspicion. What could be better?

Now imagine that Hu Jin-tao, in a burst of imagination, appoints YOU czar of China's East Asian political and military strategy amidst this situation of great potential for China. Do you:
(a) send your businessmen on buying trips to Tokyo, purchase Japanese politicians, woo Japanese sentiment with cultural programs, reduce your military presence in Japanese waters, tone down anti-Japanese rhetoric at home, and in general, work hard on better relations with Japan to weaken its annoying attachment to the Yankee imperialists.

(b) bide your time, knowing that the Japanese will cause problems for US basing arrangements, knowing that the US presence in Asia is in long-term decline and the military and political trends favor you.

(c) immediately send a Chinese flotilla on an unnecessary voyage through Japanese waters, buzz Japanese vessels with your helicopters, and chase Japanese vessels out of disputed waters while threatening to sink them, and in general, behave like aggressive, expansionist bully.
If you answered C, there's a job in politico-military strategy in Beijing with your name on it. Because that's just what the Chinese have been doing recently. SCMP reports in an article entitled Get Used to PLA Navy on China's kindness in reminding Japanese just what Beijing's foreign policy is really all about:

China's neighbours should get used to the presence of the Chinese navy in Asian waters, a retired People's Liberation Army general said in response to Tokyo's protest over a vessel chasing one of its surveying ships out of an area under dispute - which has caused an uproar in Japan.

"China's long absence in its exclusive economic waters over the past decades was an abnormal historical accident and now it is just advancing to normal operations," Xu Guangyu said in response to Japan's protest over the latest incident earlier this week.


Tokyo reacted angrily to one of its oceanographic survey vessels being chased by a Chinese vessel on Monday and lodged a formal complaint with Beijing.

The incident occurred in the East China Sea about 320 kilometres northwest of Japan's Amami Oshima Island. A Chinese vessel identified as the Haijian 51 allegedly interfered with the work of the Japanese ship the Shoyo, according to the Japanese coastguard.

Coastguard officials claimed the Chinese ship had chased the Shoyo for hours, demanding that it halt its research and leave China's exclusive economic zone.

The exact line of the maritime boundary between China and Japan is in dispute - partly because of vast deposits of natural gas that are believed to lie beneath the seabed in the region - and never before had a Chinese vessel forced a Japanese ship to leave the area.

Coming so soon after a series of incidents involving the Chinese navy and their Japanese counterparts, there is concern that Tokyo is facing a more aggressive and determined policy in the region from Beijing.

"This is a surprise," said Jun Okumura, a senior adviser with the Eurasia Group, adding that while he would have been inclined to write off incidents last month - the buzzing of a Japanese warship by Chinese navy helicopters and a fleet of 10 Chinese naval vessels found operating in international waters close to the islands of Okinawa - this latest confrontation raises the stakes.

"It is hard not to see a pattern now because this involves two different institutions of the Chinese government, the military and a civilian surveying vessel," Jun said.

"It is even more surprising given that there is such an unprovocative regime in Japan at present."

Some Japanese media outlets said the incidents "call into question the value of the diplomatic stance toward China taken by the administration of Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama".

You catch more flies with honey.... a timely reminder from Beijing on what its true goals are, and why the US blue water Navy and the presence of US bases, are so important to regional stability.

Those of you out there nursing fantasies that China will turn up sweet once ECFA is inked should study China's propensity to behave this way toward its friends and potential friends.
Don't miss the comments below! And check out my blog and its sidebars for events, links to previous posts and picture posts, and scores of links to other Taiwan blogs and forums!


Anonymous said...

Hey, great post! I failed the multiple choice! China is just unbelievable.

Ben Goren said...

Ah yes, that 'Peaceful Rise' again ... I'd be more worried if China had played option A) but then you can always count on their predictable hubris and little boy pride to throw a spanner in the works.

Meanwhile, in the land of Nod, Golden boy Ma plods on with his completely transparent sell out of Taiwan to ensure his re-election funded generously by the gwanxi networks set up by Soong, Lien and Wu.

Thing is, though the Taiwanese clearly smell the giant elephant in the room, will they get over their collective fear based myopia to take a stand at the ballot box this December and in 2012?

I despair. Watching Ma is like watching a bad conjurer desperately imploring his audience to believe that his trick is really magic.

How long before his kowtowing really starts to worry the State Department and he gets called a 'troublemaker' upsetting the delicate regional balance of power? Can't come too soon.

One final point: saying one thing whilst doing another is politics par excellence all over the world, and especially in Taiwan. Here's an example at the micro level:

1.) 'x' university combines two programs and renames it.

2) Admin then fail to tell students that their degree name has changed too.

3) Protest from students is studiously ignored (if I don't see or hear it, it doesn't exist) and then refuted on weak and nonexistent grounds.

4) Students get fed up with being patronised and ignored and call in the big guns.

5) Admin frantically rushes around trying to deal with new MOE order to restore original degree name.

6) Admin assures students that they will get their original degree name. Admin refuses to notify all affected students in an official email.

7) Students graduates. Result? The ENGLISH degree certificate meets requirements of the students but the CHINESE one shows the new degree name. Which one is on the official record? Which one should the student use on their record when applying for jobs or further study?

8) Admin either had a SNAFU or tried to pull a fast one (I suspect the latter) ....

Now, about that ECFA ... I'm going with the default position that the promise and reality will be a few oceans apart.

Anonymous said...

Hear ! Hear !

Anonymous said...

Now Japanese know how Daiwanese fishermen and people felt being rammed and bombarded with high pressure sea water!

D said...

This is surprising?

But I suggest two modifications. First, politics. Getting articles with titles like "Get Used to PLA Navy" is exactly what they want, on the foreign front, increasing "awe" of the PRC, and on the domestic, building pride in the CCP's stewardship of a national strength. Second, let's replace "friends and potential friends" at the end of your post with "adversaries". An adversary is not the same as an enemy, of course. It just means other players in the game, with whom you will be competing. Japan is a Chinese adversary. Taiwan is too, and will continue to be, ECFA or no ECFA, whether Beijing likes it or not.

Thus reformulated, we see China as a relatively rational actor ("rational" in terms of their pursuit of what they want, not necessarily in terms of what it is they want). Their interests are just different than ours. So the real question is how do we thwart them, or, better put, push them towards a resolution advantageous to us? Covering our ears and pretending the bell isn't ringing isn't going to do any good. In this sense, we really can thank Beijing for reminding everyone what's going on. Maybe Old Hu was really doing everyone a favor.

But cheers for the nice wrap-up of an important group of recent events.

Michael Turton said...

Yeah, I agree with much of that, D. But I think disentangling Japan from the US to the extent possible would be a prime goal of my foreign policy, if the CCP made me foreign policy tsar. And attacking Japanese vessels at sea just doesn't further that goal, even if it creates awe and makes the domestic audience feel good.

But yes, i certainly thank Hu for reminding everyone what's really going on.

D said...

Well, I guess it's good you're not on their short list for foreign policy tsar....

Kaminoge said...

It appears Taiwan might be trying to crash the party:

Steven Crook... said...

Koxinga threw the Dutch out of Tainan, but the VOC stayed in Keelung until 1668. Then they left of their own accord, due to the station being unprofitable. "In despair"? Perhaps.