Crabtree and Twining

Writing from the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore last weekend, Daniel Twining of the German Marshall Fund notes, somewhat cryptically, the following:

A spat over a few rocks and reefs may strengthen President Xi Jinping’s nationalistic claim to be restoring China’s historical rights over Asian waterways, reinforcing Communist Party rule at home. But if this behavior should jeopardize other Chinese equities — for instance in Taiwan, Tibet, or in the realm of international finance — China’s leadership may understand that the game is not worth the candle. [Link]

He is right. It must hurt. Otherwise, habits don’t change.

But, the rest of the world is not ready to hurt China and that is what James Crabtree notes:

As Sun’s remarks the next day made clear, the question now is what happens when China does indeed ignore the ruling. One possible answer is “not much,” beyond perfunctory statements of condemnation from the Philippines, the United States, and its closest allies. Washington is likely to try and cajole the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an important regional body, to make a joint statement along the same lines — although few analysts believe ASEAN will be able to do so, largely because so many of its members fear annoying China.

Instead, the real risk may be that China feels the need to prove that it will not be constrained by the ruling, pushing it to escalate its maritime activities. [Link]

It is significant that India sent its Defence Minister to this year’s Shangri-La dialogue. In the last several years, it had not done so.

Daniel Twining’s article cites a retired Indian official saying the following:

if such historical claims were the basis of maritime rights today, India could stake out a “Fifty Dash Line” stretching from the Red Sea to the Strait of Malacca, reflecting the maritime expanse controlled by the British Raj in the heyday of empire. [Link]

Perhaps, it should. What has it received from China, in return for its restraint? NSG Membership?

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