Perlez, Jane: China pushes back against US influence

Perlez, Jane

China pushes back against U.S. influence in the seas of East Asia‘, New York Times, 28 October 2015 (updated)

Update 1 November 2015: Honest History linked to this important article two days before the Australian Financial Review reproduced it online and three days before it appeared in the hard copy Fin. Main Stream Slow Medium.

Comprehensive update, including links to other recent resources, of the state of play in the South and East China Seas.

Much more is at stake in the American decision to challenge China by sending a destroyer near islands it built in the South China Sea than a handful of rocks, even if they sit on major shipping lines and deposits of natural resources. China, analysts say, is seeking to establish a sphere of influence in these waters — and edge out the United States.

What that means — whether it represents a crisis, or a natural and inevitable shift given China’s economic strength — depends on whom you ask. But there is little doubt that China is thinking big about how these islands could limit America’s military options, about how control over these waters could give it leverage over key trade routes and about how making the United States look hapless could strengthen its diplomatic clout in the region.

While these developments are bound to be of interest to Australia the only mention of Australia in this piece is its quote and paraphrase of Hugh White from ANU.

Hugh White, a critic of the United States’ response to China’s growing power whose message is unpopular in Washington but well received among Chinese analysts, said China’s short-term goal in the South China Sea was to throw its weight around and to show America’s allies that Washington was unable to respond effectively.

The Obama administration had tried with its freedom-of-navigation maneuver near the artificial island, Subi Reef, to show that it was doing something to counter Chinese ambitions, said Mr. White, a professor of strategic studies at Australian National University.

But the action was too timid, he said. The destroyer traveled within 12 nautical miles of the new island, and then left quietly and quickly, and American officials were barred from describing it in any detail. It left the opposite impression of being strong in the face of a determined power and allowed the Chinese to move ahead undeterred, he said.

“It showed just how reluctant Washington is to stand up to China for fear of provoking a crisis,” Mr. White said.

Honest History’s earlier collections of material on events in this region are accessible from here (follow the links).

Update 22 December 2015: Walter Hamilton in Pearls and Irritations looks critically at China’s actions.

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