WHILE US generals have been quoted claiming they believe so, and in the near future (2025 or 2027), take those with a ton of salt, they may just be toeing the Pentagon’s propaganda line for increased budgets to fund more sophisticated weapons, or worse, they are engaging in wishful thinking.
After all, what’s the use of generals without a war, or even in the case of our generals, war games?
For this question, there’s a very enlightening March 21 article in the respected Foreign Affairs magazine by Jessica Chen Weiss, professor for China and Asia-Pacific Studies at Cornell University. The article says it all: “Don’t Panic About Taiwan.” However, its drophead is a worrisome warning: “Alarm Over a Chinese Invasion Could Become a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.”
Weiss wrote: “Fears that China will soon invade Taiwan are overblown. There is little evidence that Chinese leaders see a closing window for action. Such fears appear to be driven more by Washington’s assessments of its own military vulnerabilities than by Beijing’s risk-reward calculus. Historically, Chinese leaders have not started wars to divert attention from domestic challenges, and they continue to favor using measures short of conflict to achieve their objectives.”
She emphasized though: “If Western policymakers exaggerate the risk of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan, they might inadvertently create a self-fulfilling prophecy… The United States should focus on arresting — or at least decelerating — the action-reaction spiral that has steadily ratcheted up tensions and made a crisis more likely.”
That was my point in my column last Monday that hypothesized that the implementation — President Duterte had correctly let it gather dust — as well as expansion of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) by President Marcos, with the new sites obviously aimed at Taiwan has triggered that “action-reaction spiral” that the Foreign Affairs article explained. The action was the new EDCA sites; the reaction was China’s three-day dry run to encircle Taiwan with its navy and air force to precede an invasion.
What also struck me in Weiss’ piece was her assertion: “According to the political scientist M. Taylor Fravel, China has compromised in 15 of the 17 territorial disputes it has settled with its neighbors since 1949.”
That fact totally goes against the propaganda line of the US and its local minions that China is an expansionist power — as President Aquino 3rd himself claimed in 2015 in a speech in Japan — as Nazi Germany in World War 2
I rushed to get a copy of the work of that scholar who presented the data to contradict the sinophobes’ incessant screaming about “Chinese aggression.” That scholar, Fravel, is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, specializing in international security and China. His 408-page book Strong Borders, Secure Nation published in 2008 is the most comprehensive study, even using never-before-cited Chinese documents, on each of the superpower’s territorial disputes, narrated in detail. It should be required reading for our top leaders, never mind the military and our foreign affairs corps, probably the most American-brainwashed people in government.
“In its territorial disputes … China has been less prone to violence and more cooperative than a singular view of an expansionist state suggests. Since 1949, China has participated in twenty-three unique territorial disputes with its neighbors on land and at sea. Yet it has pursued compromise and offered concessions in seventeen of these conflicts. (Emphasis by this columnist)
“China’s compromises have often been substantial, as it has usually offered to accept less than half of the contested territory in any final settlement. In addition, these compromises have resulted in boundary agreements in which China has abandoned potential irredentist claims to more than 3.4 million square kilometers of land that had been part of the Qing empire at its height in the early nineteenth century.
“In total, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has contested roughly 238,000 square kilometers, or just 7 percent of the territory once part of the Qing (China before the Republic). Although China has pursued compromise frequently, it has nevertheless used force in six of its territorial disputes. Some of these conflicts, especially with India and Vietnam, were notably violent.
“Others, such as the crises over Taiwan in the 1950s and the clash with the Soviet Union in 1969, were tense moments in the Cold War involving threats to use nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, despite a willingness to use force in certain disputes, China has seized little land that it did not control before the outbreak of hostilities.
“Contrary to scholars of offensive realism, however, China has rarely exploited its military superiority to bargain hard for the territory that it claims or to seize it through force.
“China has likewise not become increasingly assertive in its territorial disputes as its relative power has grown in the past two decades. Contrary to others who emphasize the violent effects of nationalism, which would suggest inflexibility in conflicts over national sovereignty, China has been quite willing to offer territorial concessions despite historical legacies of external victimization and territorial dismemberment under the Qing.
“And contrary to scholars who stress the role of political institutions, China has escalated only a minority of its territorial conflicts even with a highly centralized, authoritarian political system that places few internal constraints on the use of force. China’s pattern of cooperation and escalation in its territorial disputes may also be surprising for observers and scholars of China.
“…China has been more likely to compromise over disputed territory and less likely to use force than many policy analysts assert, international relations theories might predict, or China scholars expect. (Emphasis added by this columnist)”
Shouldn’t we “go by the science,” that is, pore over the empirical data as narrated by such scholars as Fravel, rather than get carried away by infantile blah-blahs like “what is ours is ours,” or ‘won’t give an inch of territory”?
Look, China now occupies, mostly since 1988, seven features in the Spratlys (Kalayaan Island Group to us) on which they built huge infrastructure in retaliation against the suit that the Aquino 3rd government brought against it in 2013 in an international venue. Taiwan occupies the largest island in the Spratlys Itu Aba since before World War 2. We occupy 10 features, including the second biggest island we call Pag-asa, mostly since 1971. Vietnam occupies 15 features, many with makeshift military installations built on oil-rig type of structures.
Except through all-out war (I guess even in our case, if the US defends us), these countries will never give up what they have held since the 1970s and 1980s. There is even a justification for sovereignty claims now, on the international law principle of effectivités (sovereignty by occupation for a long period of time).
Shouldn’t we be realistic and enter into a compromise by which each country recognizes the other country’s sovereignty over the features it now occupies, and then later negotiate (as many other countries have done all over the world) on the delimitation of their overlapping exclusive economic zones?
Isn’t this better rather than allowing the US, which obviously wants to stop China’s rise as a superpower in region, to transform our camps into their military bases, which makes us an accomplice in the US campaign against the Asian superpower, and worse, risks a nuclear attack on our country in a war we really aren’t a party to?
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