How many times have you heard that China would not risk war with America and put their economic growth at risk? Sadly for this view, China's rulers consider the continued rule of the Chinese Communist Party as the ultimate objective. Losing a war that keeps the party in power is acceptable collateral damage.
Via Mad Minerva, we have a reminder of China's nationalism problem:
As Robert Kelly, a professor at Pusan National University in South Korea, wrote in a good post on his blog, one of the likelier of a number of possible reasons for China’s ADIZ declaration is to shore up the Communist Party’s nationalist credentials at home. “The CCP may not want a conflict with Japan,” he writes, “but it’s been telling Chinese youth for 20+ years that Japan is greatly responsible for the ’100 years of humiliation.’ So now the CCP is stuck; they have to be tough on Japan—even if they don’t want to be—because their citizens demand it. The CCP has created an anti-Japanese frankenstein at home that has to be placated. They have to ride the anti-Japanese tiger their education/propaganda has created, or risk a domestic backlash.”
If a clash occurs, China could find that it cannot back down because to do so would unleash nationalist anger against the CCP for failing to stand up for China.
That's not terribly rational, is it? Not from our point of view, that is. That's why I insist we understand that Peking will define rational when they decide on the question of war.
So what will the Chinese do if their people demand their country take action to defend their honor against the Japanese (and their American allies)?
Then the calculations become unlike anything we like to believe is rational:
We like to think that it makes no sense for China to risk their economic growth by going to war. We assume--perhaps rightly--that we'd beat China.China's decision to declare and defend an air identification zone that covers Japanese territory covered by our defense treaty with Japan is a reckless act that could lead to a shooting war over the Senkaku Islands. Because their real last resort is risking Chinese Communist Party control of China.
But if the Chinese Communist Party is willing to accept even defeat as the price for defending Chinese Communist Party control of China, they have an entirely different view of what is rational than we do.
And yes, the Chinese Communist Party rulers consider that rational.