Chinese navy irresponsibly playing chicken with war ships
As anyone who has seen “Rebel Without a Cause” knows, playing chicken is dangerous for California teenagers in hot-rods.But playing chicken with warships, cruisers, and fighter jets — well, that’s just another level of crazy.
Unfortunately, vessels from the US military and from other countries increasingly find themselves in such high-stakes confrontations on the East Asian seas, where China has adopted a strategy of making rivals flinch or risk collision.
Just this week, Chinese sailors parked three ships on a disputed reef 50 miles from the Malaysian coast and performed a ceremony in which they swore an oath “to safeguard [China’s] sovereignty and territorial interests.” Malaysia also claims the reef, and is building a naval base nearby to protect it against China’s claim.
That’s just the latest in an escalating series of incidents.
In November, China declared its right to patrol and regulate a large swath of airspace, including a zone controlled by Japan and areas regularly used by the US military. Since then, China says it has repeatedly dispatched surveillance planes to tail, monitor, and identify foreign fighters.
In December, a Chinese ship halted in the path of the USS Cowpens, in international waters, forcing it to change course or risk a crash. The American cruiser complied.
Then in January, China’s southernmost province of Hainan announced that police vessels had begun enforcing a law requiring “all foreigners or foreign ships” to get approval before they could fish in 2 million square kilometers of sea — an area five times the size of California. The claimed territory encompasses waters long plied by fisherman from Vietnam and thePhilippines.
While none of those incidents has yet led to bloodshed or to any formal cession of territory, they have yielded de-facto results. And collectively, they show the genius and risks in China’s plan to wrest control of the South China Sea, one provocation at a time.
...These are the action of a military bully who is ignoring the laws of the sea to push its selfish agenda. It could lead to war especially with its claims against Japanese held islands. This is a very dangerous game they are playing and it could lead to a new world war.
“China's strategy works best against weak states who do not have the means to respond. [And] it presents an asymmetric challenge to the US because if the US Navy uses warships it will be seen as escalating the dispute.”
The strategy has already reaped dividends.
Since a 2012 showdown between Beijing and Manila, armed Chinese ships have successfully occupied a reef 125 miles off the coast of the Philippines, blocking access to Filipino ships and confronting boats that approach the shoal. The occupation of this reef, which lies more than 500 miles from the nearest Chinese province, has become a textbook example to Chinese strategists looking to expand China’s reach.