|Has China found another "noose" to constrain the United States in the Asia-Pacific region? Courtesy: The Guardian|
The implications of recent tensions over the Senkaku/Diaoyu/Tiaoyutai Islands are far-reaching and not easily scrutable. Although most would agree that no definite resolution is in sight, opinions diverge over what appropriate policy can be pursued in order to guarantee some degree of predictability.
Given the instability of current situation, however, Japan, China and Taiwan are hedging in an attempt to prevent their relative positions from weakening due to unexpected developments. For Japan - and indeed Taiwan -, this has included taking steps to reinforce the bilateral security agreement with the United States. In its turn, the United States has refused to fully and openly commit to the defence of its allies' offshore islands at the expenses of its Asia-Pacific strategy vis-à-vis China. Whereas Japan sees the Senkaku Islands as an inalienable part of its sovereign territory, for most American observers they are perceived as "a bunch of rocks" of no real importance whatsoever.
The dramatic events of last year, however, have catapulted this dispute to a whole new level.
Convinced that their own credibility as well as Hu Jintao's was now at risk, Obama and Clinton let it be known early in 2012 that they were now prepared to defend the Senkaku Islands, if necessary with military force. China then moved to defuse the crisis, but two significant points had been made. One was that another ally [Japan] had extracted a security commitment from the United States by advertising its weakness. The other was that Washington had relinquished the initiative to Hu, for as the Chinese leader later explained, by sticking their necks out over Senkaku, the Americans had handed him a noose, which he could relax - or tighten - at will.
Let us pause, for the above paragraph demands closer attention. The passage is based upon John Lewis Gaddis's (2006) analysis of the Quemoy and Matsu Islands dispute between China and Taiwan in the 1950s. And yet it bears a strange resemblance with what has been the situation surrounding the Sino-Japanese dispute over the Senkaku/Diaoyu/Tiaoyutai Islands in the East China Sea.
|The first noose Communist China used to influence U.S. policy in the region. Courtesy: CNN|
Here is the original quote:
Convinced that their own credibility as well as Chiang's was now at risk, Eisenhower and Dulles let it be known early in 1955 that they were now prepared to defend the most important islands, Quemoy and Matsu, if necessary with nuclear weapons. Mao then moved to defuse the crisis, but two significant had been made. One was that another ally had extracted a security commitment from the United States by advertising its weakness. The other was that Washington had relinquished the initiative to Mao, for as the Chinese leader later explained, by sticking their necks out over Quemoy and Matsu, the Americans had handed him a noose, which he could relax - or tighten - at will.
To argue that China's recent moves are part of a new strategy to expand its power and influence in its near-abroad is thus shortsighted. They are arguably one of its constitutive elements, but they are certainly not new, nor are they the defining features of it.