Thursday, January 5, 2017

China Courts the Philippines

Yesterday we linked to a George Friedman Geopolitical Futures article on China's Taiwan "problem." Today George takes up an alternative scenario: a naval blockade of Chinese commerce aimed at crippling their economy. He argues:
The Chinese see the United States in three ways. First, the U.S. has an extremely powerful Navy. Second, the U.S. is highly unpredictable in how it responds to challenges. The Chinese saw this unpredictability in Korea, Vietnam, Kosovo, Operation Desert Storm, Iraq and so on. At times, the U.S. does not respond. Other times it over-reacts, from the Chinese point of view. Third, the U.S. prefers economic sanctions that at times include physically blocking the trade of a given country.

Given these three facts about China’s potential adversary, China finds itself in an extremely difficult position. It cannot match American naval power. It cannot predict what the U.S. will do. To the extent that the U.S. might choose, sanctions that include interference with Chinese trade are the most likely opening move. Therefore, the geography of the Western Pacific archipelago poses a potential threat to core Chinese national interests.
Given this scenario, he reasons:
The point I am making here and in yesterday’s analysis is that any discussion of war between the U.S. and China overestimates either the Chinese capability or the American capability. The Chinese would not be able to take Taiwan. There are too many failure points. The U.S. could blockade China if it was prepared to accept losses. The U.S. is risk averse, and minimizing threats would mean a far larger war than merely a naval picket line.

Each action by either side faces a counter that opens the door not only to failure but also to losing forces neither side can afford to lose. The only practical way to force a change in the balance of power in the region is a shift in alliances by one of the countries, and the Philippines is the one to watch.
China is not much offended by the open season on drug dealers Philippine President Duterte has declared. China has done similarly homicidal things at home when feeling threatened.

Historically, the U.S. feels it must openly oppose such human rights offenses by a longtime ally. We may lose said ally (a former colony) in the process. Perhaps President Trump can take a less judgmental approach to Philippine anti-drug policy and keep the Philippines out of the Chinese orbit.