It does become increasingly important to figure out who really controls China’s foreign policy. Senkaku/Diaou has lost focus, the South China sea lost focus, the N/S Korean rhetorical war lost focus. Lacking an aggressive response from the other side, without an excuse to follow up, it almost seems like China is here looking for a new provocation.
Joseph Nye’s piece in FP about China’s lack of understanding of soft power http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2013/04/29/what_china_and_russia_don_t_get_about_soft_power
seems so obvious. One would assume the politburo understands that upping the military ante around it deeply hurts its international credibility and soft power. And if one assumes so, then why do they persist?
My reading is that China’s governing groups are deeply divided between realists who understand soft power and follow Deng’s path to economic supremacy on the one hand and what one could call ‘neo cons’ who want to assert China’s power according to 19/20th century paradigms on the other.
The powers that be in China, even the Deng-ists, by and large share Lavrov’s zero-sum outlook and understanding of the world. They however preside over a vast, distinctly globalist economy that requires Pax Americana (and a relatively stable dollar) to prosper and grow. But lacking democratic representation the growing middle classes cannot exert their stamp on the direction of the country, least of all what if any fights it picks.
I can imagine that political leaders from the Deng side will feel challenged each day that their troops remain in disputed territories. It weakens them versus the conservatives. They probably are failing to order the military directly enough for the forces to retreat immediately. The chain of command fails to follow up on orders immediately, faulty radio equipment or other excuses are proffered. But meanwhile China’s international credibility demands those troops depart immediately. The longer they stay, the more the neocons assert themselves.
This is a fight for the soul of China. Will the middle classes and their representatives in the party win? Reason suggests they would, the alternative would lay waste to the Chinese economy. But reason doesn’t always prevail. Even in the US a similar reactionary agenda prevailed for years.
Xi’s War Drums
China’s new leader is using the military to consolidate his power. But has he unleashed forces beyond his control?