The world is seeing more Chinese in peacekeeping missions as well as growing Chinese threats to peace. The bottom line however is keeping the communist dictatorship in power and that may be the ultimate reason for China avoiding war.
That does not comfort me. This highlights that the Chinese rulers think differently than we, who divide politics into foreign and domestic, think about policy. They see through the perspective of maintaining party control of China.
All threats from America to local riots are a continuum of threats to the Chinese Communist Party. What happens when there is nothing to fight over but the Chinese think a short and glorious war is the best way to keep the communist dictatorship in power?
If large-scale unrest--common enough in China--takes place and appears to threaten party control--could China initiate a war abroad believing nationalism will smother the internal fissures?
China could easily believe a quick sharp blow against our forces will discourage us from continuing the fight, and the national joy of defeating America would end domestic unrest at little cost to China.
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.
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.
Are we capable of analyzing China from the party's point of view rather than mirror imaging ourselves in their shoes? China gets to define what is rational for them, remember.
We could easily miss the significance of a Chinese push because while we weigh the issue over some small rock as a minor matter, China could see the same crisis as revolving around party primacy.
What could possibly go wrong with that failure to agree on the stakes?