Has the horse bolted on China's annexation of the East China Sea?

Audio reveals RAAF’s ‘freedom of navigation’ flight over South China Sea(BBC c/o ABC Aust.)

This exchange proceeded earlier communications between a Filipino single-engine passenger plane carrying a BBC reporter and the Chinese Navy. The gist of the conversation was (*the Chinese used broken English) “You are in Chinese sovereign territory […] Please leave the area to avoid miscalculations” (*the last term was indeed used, verbatim).

Can the West actually do anything about the noose China is tightening around a body of water which conveys 40% of the world’s shipping? Or are these ineffectual “fly-overs” - something the Australian govt’ have so far been too fretful to own to publicly (albeit convention that they were indeed conducting them) - that are summarily met with poorly veiled warnings and underlying disdain, as ‘assertive’ as the West gets? :dubious:

What happens when China’s expansionist claims are realised and they begin limiting traffic through this zone, followed by the inevitable plundering of its undersea resources; resources that are rightfully (geographically speaking) belong to other adjacent nations – regional conflict/s? Then what – U.S. intervention leading to a larger war?!

What does it say of ‘Law of the Sea’, the West asserting itself when it is called for / they’re expected to and, indeed, U.S. supremacy, when China can pluck some centuries-old parchment from their bony backside and declare it proof of holy writ of whatever claim takes their fancy? :dubious:

My guess is that the Chinese will keep pushing, and seeing how much they can get away with. They sense a weakness in the USA, and know that the regional powers are not interested in confronting China. stay tuned.

Why would China cut off the trade that fuels their economy?

We’ve debated the related issue of the South China Sea. I said it’s not enough to simply say “we should be doing something.” We need to actually list the possible things we can do and consider the consequences.

  1. Sit back and do nothing. It’s not like the United States has any claims in the region. So why get involved? And this is the easiest policy to implement. The result of this will probably be China will end up in control of the East China Sea.

  2. Put pressure on China by diplomatic and economic means. The problem is China has already committed a lot of effort to this issue. It’s not going to willingly back down. It would require a large multi-national effort, led by the United States, to get them to make concessions. At best, we’d get the concessions and create a lot of hostility between China and the United States. Or worse, China may defy diplomatic and economic pressure and we’d either have back down or move up to a military confrontation.

  3. Get the other countries in the region to stand up to China. We could announce this policy but making it happen would be unlikely. Realistically, countries like Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan are not going to confront China unless they have strong assurances that the United States will back them up. So this is just an indirect means of getting us into a military confrontation.

  4. Get in a military confrontation with China. Send some carrier groups into the area, tell China we will not allow them to expand their borders, and announce we will use force if necessary to stop them. The problem with this policy is it puts us on the brink of a war with China. I think we could win such a war but we’d be fighting in a situation where China would have a lot of advantages over us. At best, China backs down and we start a new Cold War. Worse is if we fight a major war with all the losses that implies. Worst of all is if we fight a major war with all the losses that implies and lose.

  5. Make a deal. This is an area where China has major interests. There are other areas where we have major interests. We negotiate with China. We’ll agree to some of the things they want in the East China Sea. They will in turn agree to some of the things we want in other areas.

I have a feeling that the West (primarily the US) will continue to overfly the area, and sail right through it, basically daring the Chinese to do something about it, and proving to the rest of the world that the Chinese aren’t going to interdict shipping or anything like that.

Like even sven says, it’s not in their interest to deliberately shoot down a US Navy P-8 or sink a Burke-class destroyer and risk the kind of war and trade disruption that would cause. And sinking a Navy ship or deliberately shooting down a P-8 would cause a shooting war, I’m pretty sure.

The thing is, ALL the countries in the region are occupying and claiming the various Spratly and Paracel islands. The Chinese are just using more resources by building an airfield on Fiery Cross Reef. I’m pretty sure the Vietnamese and Filipinos would do the same if they had the wherewithal, but all the Phillipines can manage was to run a rusted hulk aground and keep about a dozen Filipino marines on it as a occupying force of sorts.

  1. Act like their claims to sovereignty didn’t happen and just keep sending warships through their newly claimed nautical limit.

Really there can’t be any negotiating here. The U.S. is simply not going to let China claim international waterways.

Sounds stud-ly, but at some point you may have to back that up. And the U.S. has to determine if they want to get into a shooting war with China over this. While the U.S. has an interest in freedom of the seas, this one area in the East China Sea isn’t specifically a big deal to the U.S. The concept is, this one area isn’t.

Bottom line is that the U.S. is in the midst of declining defense budget while China is increasing spending. And this is in China’s back yard. Is the U.S. going to get into a war over this, in addition to all else such as ISIS, other terrorism, etc.? Would Japan, South Korea and other support U. S action against China?

What do you mean, “get into a shooting war with China over this”?

We’re sailing ships in international waters. You think China’s going to shoot at us? As for the waaaaaa, our defense budget is declining, waaaaaa, our defense budget is still ten times higher than China’s. China doesn’t have a blue-water navy yet. Almost all their military budget goes to the army, which has no force projection capability.

No “action” needs to be taken, other than to not listen when China complains that we’re sailing in their territory.

I am not generally much of a hawk but the U.S. can’t really look like they are willing to give up international waters even if it is China’s backyard. And I’ll flip your question: is China willing to get in a shooting war over this? With their biggest customer? When 3,4, 5,6, & 8th biggest customers are American allies?

It’s not a matter of being studly. It’s a matter of giving something away that’ll never come back.

My point is it’s not just that simple to say “U.S. is simply not going to let China claim international waterways” pump your chest and have it be so. The middle east is still a mess, especially with the terrorist threat. Russia and China are threats. So the global pressure on the U.S. military isn’t getting any smaller and the U.S. isn’t the only superpower it once was. Heck, how did the President’s red line in Syria work out for ya? I think many across the globe don’t believe the “bite” will follow the U.S. “bark” as it once did.

You can ignore the fiscal realities all you’d like. But China’s defense budget is on the rise and the U.S. budget is declining. So U.S. capabilities are declining vis-à-vis the Chinese. Is the Chinese navy better? No. Is it better in comparison the U.S. Navy than it used to be? Yes.

And how blue water does the Chinese Navy need to be? The islands are only 1,000 miles from China. And China deploys ships to the Gulf of Aden so it’s not like they can’t sail. That’s the worlds third largest navy by the way.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t challenge the Chinese. We should. But it’s just not as simple as waving your hand and saying “make it so.” It takes money, resources, dedication, public support, support from your allies etc. And the U.S. is being challenged more than it once was and I think we’ll increasing be asked to put up.

From this former Navy officer’s perspective, all it takes is a willingness to order ships through the area, and to ignore China’s complaints. It won’t take resources, or significant dedication and public support, or red lines, or really anything like this at all.

Well, this current surface warfare trained Navy Officer is concerned what happens when an increasing capable China stops complaining and starts acting in their own back yard with their entire Air Force and Navy at their disposal while the majority of our fleet is home or in the Middle East. Platitudes and just being really, really, really certain that we want it our way might not be enough.

Yeah in 20 years or so China might have a formidable navy. Better to just give up now.

China isn’t going to war over this, and we aren’t either. This will be worked out regionally. China didn’'t just walk in to this yesterday. It’s been going on forever and everyone and their mom is involved. China is just stepping up the game a bit.

These lands can’t just stay in dispute forever. Eventually Asia is going to have to come to some kind of agreement, and China seems to want to force the issue. And they can do that, because they are the reigonal power in that area.

Not enough for what? If China starts a war, then we respond – and the world will respond to the fact that China started a war. I think this is pretty unlikely, and if it happens, it will be due to decisions made by China.

You’re right. The third largest navy in the world, is just really a leaky canoe and a pop gun.

We can’t get the world to respond in a meaningful way to terrorism in the Middle East, Europe and the United States. What makes you think the world’s navies will sail to China over an air strip?

What do you mean, “When China starts acting”? That’s a pretty vague word. Are you talking about the Chinese navy shooting at our ships when we ignore the warnings?

All China is doing right now is complaining when people sail through their ancient territorial waters. That are also claimed by six other countries.

You keep insisting that we need to “do something”. What’s that? Increase spending on the Navy? If our current navy at ten times the size of the Chinese navy doesn’t scare them, how is a navy 11 or 12 times larger going to scare them?

It’s not about an airstrip, it’s about them claiming all the water around it. And refusing that claim is not chest puffing or acting studly.

The US has been quite active in using diplomacy with other East Asian countries to create impediments to Chinese expansion. Among other things, it has worked with Japan to expand that country’s military capabilities, and it has strengthened ties with the Philippines to the point where that country is discussing inviting the US Navy back to Subic Bay. Obama made the first presidential visit to Malaysia in forty years. Vietnam is heavily pro-American and has been increasingly cooperative with the US on energy projects.