China Subdues the US with Strategy and DiplomacyPosted: July 9, 2017
I said in my post “China’s Space Era Strategy Overwhelmingly Superior to US Air-Sea Battle” on June 22:
There is no denial that the US regards China as its top potential enemy. Obama made it very clear that his Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was directed at China.
Obama’s pivot to Asia, in spite of his claim that it was not directed at China, was directed at China. That was clear to everybody.
The US is obsessed with military solution. That is why it maintains an excessive military budget in spite of its shortage of funds for its people’s welfare and its essential but dilapidated infrastructures. Obama’s major approach for his pivot to Asia was to deploy 60% of US military in Asia.
China follows its gifted strategist Sun Tzu’s teachings: Subdue the enemy with strategy is the best of best, with diplomacy the next best, with fighting the third option while with attacking enemy cities the last choice. Its approaches have been strategy and diplomacy.
I have mentioned China’s strategy to enhance its geographical advantages by its construction of artificial islands with three airstrips in the South China Sea and its weapon strategy to develop integrated space and air capabilities for both attack and defense. In addition China has subdued the US with diplomacy.
First, there is the question: Has China really achieved that?
Recently, we have well-known US media’s articles on US losing to China. They, though perhaps do not follow Sun Tzu’s instructions, know well in the conflicts between the US and China, diplomacy is preferred to war.
With such a perspective, they publish articles on US losing to China.
First, Foreign Affair published an article titled “The United States Is Losing Asia to China” by Ely Ratner and Samir Kumar on May 12.
As a senior fellow in China studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, Ely Ratner is quite an expert on U.S.-China relations, regional security in East Asia, and U.S. national security policy.
There has been no opposition to the article’s views from any heavy-weight experts.
That article was followed by WSJ article “The U.S. Is Losing the Pacific to China” by Ben Bohane on June 7, 2017. US loss is now much larger: not only Asia but the entire Pacific.
Ben Bohane is a photojournalist, author and television producer who has covered Asia and the Pacific islands for the past 25 years. His article shall be taken seriously.
However, the losses referred to in the articles means diplomatic losses not physical losses. Neither the US nor China have Asia or the Pacific as their own.
Mr. Bohane says in his article, “For more than 100 years, the US has viewed the Pacific Ocean as an ‘American lake’”. It is but US view instead of any US claim to the Pacific. China can regard a large area of the South China Sea as its lake as it has drawn a nine-dash line to encircle the area it claims and no one had opposed the line for more than two decades after it has been included in China’s map since 1947.
The US has never drawn any line whether nine-dash or ninety-dash to encircle the Pacific Ocean to support its claim to the Pacific. If it had drawn such a line, it would have encountered fierce opposition from lots of countries.
What Mr. Bohane means is in fact that China is establishing good relations with Pacific island nations while the US has neglected those nations. The island nations have not been US allies or spheres of influence. Nor are they China’s allies or spheres of influence; therefore, the actual situation there is that China has been making efforts to make friends there while the US has done nothing.
In Asia, what Mr. Ratner means in his article is but US loss of Southeast Asia to China. The US has kept Japan and South Korea as its allies. As for South and Central Asia, they have long been Russia’s spheres of influence. China has not substituted its influence for Russia’s. Even if it has, the areas have been lost by Russia instead of US to China.
As for the Middle East in Asia, the US does seem to have been losing it but not to China as China’s influence there remains very much limited.
What we have to discuss is how the US has lost its influence in Asia, especially Russia, Southeast Asia and Pakistan and how China has been gaining influence in Pacific island nations.
What is Sun Tzu’s teachings?
Sun Tzu says, “In the past, those who were skilled in war made themselves invincible first and then waited for the time when the enemy could be defeated. One relies on one’s own for invincibility, but whether one’s enemy can be defeated is determined by the enemy. Therefore, those who are skilled in war are able to make themselves invincible, but unable to make the enemy surely defeatable.
Therefore, those who are skilled in war put themselves in an invincible position and lose no chance of their enemies’ possible loss. Hence, a winning army fights after it has got the opportunity to win while a losing army fights first and then seek victory.
Let’s see what China has done to put itself in an invincible position. China had been improving its relations with Russia, its long-term enemy in history, For quite a long time since it began its reform and opening up it had been making efforts to improve its relations with Russia as it needed a peaceful environment for economic growth. At the same time, Russia had been trying hard to improve its relations with the West. In fact, at that time Russia adopted a political and economic system quite similar to the West. There was hope that Russia might be accepted by the West.
However, the West always has an intention to contain Russia in order to prevent it from becoming a superpower similar to the Soviet Union. After all, Russia is the major part of the Soviet Union.
China’s improvement in its relations with Russia put it in an invincible diplomatic position to prevent the West from sowing discord between Russia and China. However, though both of them felt the pressure from the US to contain them, there has been no breakthrough to establish mutual trust for closer relations, especially an alliance for that.
Then there was Obama’s pivot to Asia and later the West’s street coup that overthrew a pro-Russia Ukrainian government. China exploited the chances for the establishment of an anti-US alliance between China and Russia.
EU and US mistake in their street revolution to bring about regime change in Ukraine gave China the opportunity to entirely win over Russia and made Russia China’s close ally.
In East and Southeast Asia, China has developed economic relations with ASEAN, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand quietly till the relations become so close as to enable China to set up free trade areas with them. Moreover, China has made efforts to grow its market much larger and even larger that no other market can replace China’s.
China has thus established its invincible position in East and Southeast Asia. Its invincible position in Southeast Asia has been strengthened by its willingness to conduct win-win cooperation with other claimants in exploiting the fish and energy resources in the disputed sea areas. Still it could not defeat the US diplomatically there until the US made the mistake to give China the opportunity to win.
In fact, the US must have been very clear that due to ASEAN’s close economic relations with China, it is impossible for the US to make ASEAN join it in containing China.
Still the US made the mistake in instigating the Philippines to file an arbitration and helping it to win the arbitration without military support to impose the arbitration award. That gave China the opportunity to subdue the US with firm posture to defend its sovereignty and interests militarily while making efforts to win over the Philippines with the diplomacy by allowing the Philippines to fish in the area around Scarborough Shoal and promising win-win cooperation in exploiting the resources in the disputed waters.
China’s diplomatic victory in dealing with the Philippines has caused the US to lose the entire Southeast Asia.
The diplomatic victory in Southeast Asia has made the US unable to use any ASEAN member as its base to attack China. Together with the military control of the South China Sea has removed the threat of US attack at China from the South China Sea.
There remains the threat of the US cutting China’s trade lifelines through the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
For the west route, China has launched its Silk Road economic belt and 21st century maritime Silk Road initiative. It has set up land connections with Europe through Russia and Central Asia through the initiative and is now busy building the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor for connection with the Middle East, which is vital for China’s energy imports.
However, in spite of China’s efforts to develop close economic relations with EU, China’s growing influence in eastern Europe has given rise to EU’s concerns as a result, China’s position though quite strong, cannot be regarded as invincible. However, US mistake in dealing with its relations with EU provides China with opportunity for closer times with EU. China owes its diplomatic victory in Europe to US mistake.
Now, China’s trade lifeline through the Pacific remains unsafe. China’s trade with Americas is much smaller than that with EU but American markets especially those in Latin America have great growth potential.
What shall China do?
According to Wall Street Journal’s article “US Is Losing the Pacific to China” on June 23, China has made multibillion-dollar investments throughout the islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia is offering critical infrastructure projects, sending lots of tourists there and providing access to financial inclusion, but the US “continues to neglect its treaty allies in Micronesia and ignore the rest of the region.”
The article says, “Palau is still waiting on US$216 million in funds promised in 2011 as part of its agreement to provide the US with exclusive military access. Similar frustrations may lead the Federated States of Micronesia to terminate its own treaty with the US next year, well ahead of its expected 2023 expiration.”
Again China is establishing invincible position while the US is making mistakes to provide China with the opportunity to win with diplomacy.
If such diplomacy is combined with the construction of artificial islands on some reefs or floating artificial islands, each of which is supported with two aircraft carrier battle groups, China’s trade lifelines across the Pacific will thus be secure.
Comment by Chan Kai Yee on Foreign Policy and Wall Street Journal’s articles, full text of which can respectively be viewed at http://foreignpolicy.com/2017/05/12/the-united-states-is-losing-asia-to-china/ and https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-u-s-is-losing-the-pacific-to-china-1496853380