Friday, November 30, 2012

Peace In Our Time

At what point will China's leaders assert that they have no more core interests in Asia?

As China's military power grows and as the military grows more influential in China, the question of China's core interests is important. Don't say we weren't warned:

China's future is likely to be determined not by its hugely successful economy, which has turned the country into a global player in just one generation, but by its murky politics and the PLA's growing sway.

In this light, China's neighbors and the U.S. military would be wise to brace for a less restrained China championing ever-expanding "core interests."

Ever-expanding, indeed. What won't become a core interest of China when they feel they have the power to claim it?

And while we comfort ourselves that the Chinese Communist Party is too cautious to risk war that might wreck their economic growth, what if the military gets to order the PLA to war?

Oh sure, you might say, "peace in our time" and word plays about having no more territorial ambitions in Europe are just cheap Nazi comparisons. I'd say no they aren't. The Nazis simply did what other rising powers who felt they didn't have enough stature to reflect their power. The Nazis just did it in the most brutal fashion in our living memory.

But if you insist that China would never risk war for that stature and influence, and that they simply want their rightful place in the sun as a major power after decades of being held down by other powers, fine, use that analogy.

Remember, a call for caution doesn't require an assertion that China has passed us by in power. We remain far stronger than China in both economic and military power. But it should be of great concern to us if China can mass more power than we have in the western Pacific for even a few months.

Recall that Japan's GDP was a mere tenth of our GDP when they struck us on December 7, 1941. If a potential foe believes they can beat us--rightly or wrongly--they'll start a war under the right circumstances or in a crisis that may not even involve us.

We might find ourselves at war even if the Chinese insist that they only want a time-limited, scope-limited, kinetic action against some small party against whom the Chinese have a grievance of historic nature.