I wrote about Japan's decision to focus their military power on China. This, I said, is a natural reaction to China's rising power. Japan's decision to arm up, along with others like South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, and Australia, will help us cope with China's rising military power in the western Pacific.
China would rather its neighbors not react to China's rising power by aligning with America, and is using that "soft power" charm that they supposedly have oozing from their pores:
China is warning Asian countries that holding military exercises with the United States is bad for their health. South Korea and Vietnam, both of which have recently conducted naval activities with their American counterparts, have been warned that the United States is far away, suffering from financial difficulties and is not a reliable partner while China is right next door.
China wants those countries to believe that. But China is not destined to surpass us in power. Which means that China won't grow so powerful that countries can't arm up to balance China's power.
But for all those neighbors to be willing to stand up to China's power, they have to be confident that we have the power and determination to use it against China and to be confident that other potential partners won't stop absorbing some of China's power by making deals with China to ally with Peking. If these countries don't have confidence that we will help them, they'll cut a deal with China to protect themselves and turn away from us.
So we have to be careful about maintaining our power in the Pacific and maintaining our reputation for supporting allies and fighting until we win. If any nation, like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Australia, or Vietnam think that they can't count on us for effective military support, they'll withdraw from the potential balancing coalition against China. And once one country defects, the power potential arrayed against China will drop enough to perhaps push another country to defect and align with China rather than with us.
Thus, even a reduction in our military power that may seem marginal to us could be what tips the system against us in a cascade of defections, causing a dramatic drop in coalition power arrayed against China, and denying us the capability of operating in the western Pacific. Instead of being a rear base to support our allies against China, Guam would become an outpost as we are pushed back to the Aleutians-Hawaii line for our line of defense against Chinese naval power.
So the next time China complains that one of our carriers is exercising too close to China despite being in international waters, we should tell Peking to take a hike and sail close to their borders to demonstrate that we don't fear their friendly advice to us.