As China continues to rise in the face of North Atlantic decline, it is again flexing its geo-political muscle.
The Middle Kingdom has forcefully reiterated territorial claims to the bulk of the resource-rich South China Sea through bold gunboat diplomacy.
China only recently stepped back from a month of naval brinksmanship with the Philippines over Scarborough Shoal. Added to this, the Chinese military has authorised the deployment of a garrison to Sansha, the newly created local government unit that will administer territory claimed by Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam.
The latest flare-up in the South China Sea dispute once more raises the dilemma of how far Chinese power should be accommodated and at what point China’s ambitions should be contained.
This is not an academic question for Australia.
However, despite Chinese rhetoric at its most caustic painting Australia as a US lackey, Asian nations also support the US ”pivot” to Asia.
Just a little reminder about great power rivalries in history:
1. Spain versus Holland in the 16th century. [War]
2. Holland versus England in the 17th century. [War]
3. Britain versus France in both the 18th and 19th centuries. [War]
4. France and Britain versus Germany in the 20th century. [War]
5. Germany versus Russia in 1914. [War]
6. Germany versus Russia (Soviet Union) in 1941. [War]
7. Soviet Union versus the US and its allies in the Cold War after 1945. [No War]
A China-US match-up would not be just a great power rivalry. It would be a declining power versus a rising power rivalry, and it would be occurring in the rising power’s backyard.
If the historical odds of war are 6 out of 7 or 86% (See above), does that still hold given the US is in decline and China is still rising? Could the odds of war be pushing closer to 100%?
Given the American containment policy, could that be pushing the odds closer to 100%?
Given American support for the smaller countries bordering the South China Sea, could conflict in the South China Sea be pushing the odds closer to 100%?
Given America treaty commitments to Japan, could the East China Sea conflict push the odds closer to 100%?
Given the historical humiliation inflicted upon China by the West, could the odds be getting closer to 100%? Time for payback?
Given that each Chinese pupil learns The Parable of Goujian – a story symbolizing Western humiliation and the eventual payback that comes, could that be telling us something that probably pushes the odds of war closer to 100%?
Could the danger of an unstable Chinese economy push the odds of war closer to 100%?
Could the danger of social instability push the odds of war closer to 100%?