by John Garnaut, Sydney Morning Herald
A leading Chinese analyst says political leaders in Beijing are committed to a strategy that will cause territorial disputes to get worse.
His comments are significant because Chinese officials have repeatedly absolved themselves from responsibility for dangerous territorial disputes that have flared with Japan, the Philippines, Vietnam and India.
China has blamed the United States for causing trouble with its neighbours in order to try to “contain” China’s rise.
But asked about a Fairfax report about Australia and India drawing closer together, Shi Yinhong, Professor of International Relations at People’s University, said it was “natural” for those nations to form a “strategic coalition” with others including Japan and the US in response to the strengthening of China and expansion of Chinese naval activity.
The result, he said, was that leaders on all sides were locked into self-reinforcing cycles of aggression, with US-anchored “defensive” coalitions perceived to be “offensive” in Beijing.
Whether or not China’s strategy was counterproductive, Professor Shi said Beijing’s strategic calculus would not change.
He said China would continue on its trajectory because of popular nationalism, dynamics within the armed forces “and of course also our top leaders’ personal beliefs and strategic personalities”.
And that’s why the increasingly militarised disputes across the East China Sea, the South China Sea and also along the spine of the Himalayas are going to get worse.
“This kind of tension between China and the US and US allies will deteriorate rather than improve,” he said. “There could be some tactical change in the direction of moderation but I cannot see any fundamental change in strategic orientation.”
In the past two years China’s territorial conflicts have dramatically escalated with Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines and India – all of which have flared again in recent months.
The US and its allies, notably Australia and Japan, have also raised serious concerns about military-economic “coercion” and also freedoms of maritime navigation, and over flights around the east and South China Sea.
The timing of the escalation of disputes has coincided with the ascension to power of President Xi Jinping, in November 2012.