China issued a threat on Wednesday, claiming that unless the U.S. pulls out entirely from the South China Sea, that they will send warships into American territorial waters.
The Global Times, a Chinese paper run by the Chinese Communist Party through their puppet Yang Jiechi who doubles as their Central Foreign Affairs Commission Director, made calls for the People’s Liberation Army to send naval warships into U.S. military bases and skirt American allies’ coastlines while declaring that they were simply acting out of “freedom of navigation.” The article tartly stated that America will soon witness “the PLA… at its doorstep.”
Such declarations are not merely opinion pieces, given the Global Times significant link to official party leadership, this is a genuine threat. Why is China so upset at the U.S. right now?
China claims that the U.S. engaged in “naked provocation” when a Navy destroyer transit passed within 12 miles of one of China’s artificial islands constructed in the South China Sea. The Global Times says that they will have to do the same, giving America “a taste of its own medicine,” so that we will understand how it feels to be “bull[ied] in the South China Sea.”
The angry noises of the Times bears little resemblance with reality. China’s claims that they own the South China Sea are both politically imperialist and geographically absurd. What’s happening is that China is rapidly escalating their militarization in the sea for two unjustified reasons. Firstly they want to clear the waters for CCP resource extraction, secondly they want to demand political concessions from their neighbors in exchange for use of the waters. There’s an estimated $3.5-$4 trillion that passes through the South China Sea annually, and China wants a bigger cut.
The Trump administration was right to resist China’s aggressive behavior by displaying U.S. naval power in the region as a bulwark against Chinese tyranny. China is threatening the continuous and prosperous nature of U.S.-led international policy since the end of World War II: free transit.
The U.S.’s European allies have as of yet been squeamish and unwilling to stare down China in the same way. Nearby nations such as Australia, Japan, Vietnam, and India, however, are favorable to U.S. tactics in dealing with China, making the Communists feel threatened that they will soon have to bargain (or war) with a more multilateral challenge.
China has no genuine claim of the South China Sea. Their comparison is ludicrous, if a PLA vessel comes within 12 miles of a sovereign U.S. coast or one of our ally’s, that is a very different thing than coasting through the international waters of the South China Sea. If China makes any such moves, it will be a provocation for open war.
Author: Eric Snyder