Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Consistencies in US Foreign Policy and Confusing Chinese Behavior

What do Russia, China, and Canada have in common? Unwelcome visits by American ships and planes.  During the Cold War and after, the US Navy made it a habit of driving their ships relatively close to Russian shores, always seeking to underline the law of the sea (even when not ratified by the US) that allows ships to pass through straits and close to land.  The American conflict with Canada over the Arctic has two dimensions--where to draw the line under the water so that we can figure out where American and Canadian property rights exist and the American insistence that its ships can sail between various Canadian islands in the Northwest Passage as it unfreezes.  The latter conflict is much harder to resolve than the former since it is about a basic principle and not haggling over lines.

Why is this relevant today?  Because China announced a zone of airspace beyond its territory that would be part of China's defense zone--whatever that means.  So, as quick as you can gas up some B-52's (or not so quickly as it took a few days), the US is flying planes through this space to demonstrate its scoffing and to emphasize how much the US likes this particular form of international law.

So, the US is pretty inconsistent in many ways over the decades, but tell it to shove off and not send its military through a space and you can pretty much count on a visit by the US Navy or Air Force.  This just reinforces the strangeness of the Chinese decision.  As others have remarked on twitter and elsewhere, with Japan and South Korea having various disputes, why would you want to give them common cause?

I am not a China expert, despite eating in Chinese restaurants with celebrities.  But this does seem to be very un-Sun Tzu of them. 

Best illustrated by this?

and the US here would be Lancelot....

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